Crossfit Masters: Programming For Masters Athletes and Tips For Optimal Performance

z press
That’s me, Kevin (on the left) I help masters athletes get really fit

Are you a masters athlete trying to find the perfect blend of volume (amount of training) and intensity? Have you noticed that your body just doesn’t recover as fast?


…We can tell you from coaching a ton of athletes that you can still get after it BUT your training volume and what you prioritize may look a little bit different.

Believe me I’m a competitive person who wants to get after it, but we tell our athletes all the time:

“Train hard and recover harder. Because you are only as good as you can recover”

The ginger in the photo ๐Ÿ˜›

In today’s post I’ll be discussing:

Ready to redefine what your training looks like? Take your training to the next level and join the community of like minded athletes! Click here to dive head first into K2 Masters programming.

crossfit masters program
Lets dive into what a true masters program should look like

The Unique Needs Of Crossfit Masters Athletes

Recovery time.

You can’t hide from it. As you age your test drops something like 1-3% every year and to help off set that, you need to strength train.

But you don’t need me to tell you about training, if you are reading this post you are someone who has been training for years and now you are looking for something more suitable for you (or you found Crossfit later in life).

What needs to be factored in for most masters athletes is the amount of training volume in a program or daily workout.

This will vary from each individual person but in most cases and what we have learned from running tons of experiments is that you don’t need to train as much as you think.

Let’s dive into the different topics I have listed out below.

warm up for a workout
Positioning matters

Focus On Mobility And Flexibility

Positioning, proper mechanics, and “efficiency patterns” are important for EVERYONE (yes) but as a masters athlete you just have to work harder at it.

Joints get stiff, muscles get tight and this can lead to poor movement patterns which can potentially set you up for injury.

You and I don’t want that.

The way we have designed or encouraged our masters athletes to prioritize mobility…

…is make it a part of the program.

Because if it’s not in the program it’s probably not going to get done. Make it a part of your training block the first 10 minutes and the last ten minute of your workout. And we encourage athletes one more stretching block before bed to help regulate your nervous system to get a good nights rest.

We started offering daily 15 minute follow along mobility training videos for those who really want to take their mobility training serious.

A little more backstory on Rob, one of the many masters program athletes we work with.

When he first started training with us, he had never even heard of Crossfit. He just wanted to get healthier.

And I would argue in most cases that is what most of you want to accomplish. Depending on where you are at in your journey you may:

  • want to get healthy
  • have gotten exposed to Crossfit and now you want to learn all the skills
  • or you have been following a program or was a part of a box for quite some time and now looking for something more suitable for you

If you are any of those three, keep reading and we will educate you on what we believe your training should be reflecting. Next, let’s talk about strength.

Mobility and Positioning First

Prioritizing Strength Training

That’s Eric, another masters athlete we work with. He looks great, feels great and has a beautiful clean and jerk.

In the sport of Crossfit we categorize masters athletes:

  • 35-54 in age
  • 55+

At the actual games there are several other divisions but just within our programming that’s how we write out our workouts and of course there are additional scaling options as well.


…strength training.

We still want strength training to be a large focus point in our training but it might look slightly different than when you were younger.

Some examples:

  1. More unilateral work (to prevent muscular imbalances)
  2. More isometric holds (to create strength in the positions)
  3. More tempo work (instead of MAX load, we work tempo a bit more)

These are three examples of how a masters program can be tailored to meet the needs of your age but still get great results and improve performance.

Because let’s be honest, no matter what are you are everyone needs to be doing those three more.

We are not suggesting you still can’t lift.

Let me be clear we are still huge believers in explosive training and olympic lifting when it makes since.

We are strong believers in:

  1. Having adequate mobility so you can get into position first.
  2. Mastering the compound lifts (back squat, front squat, overhead squat, strict press, etc).
  3. Once you have become proficient at those we can begin to work on more of the technical skills
toes to bar
Let’s talk about skill work ๐Ÿ˜›

Incorporate Skill Work & Technique Refinement

The gymnastics element of Crossfit either drives you crazy or you love it. I’m a little biased because I was fortunate enough early in the sport to focus purely on gymnastics. Plus I’m a smaller athlete 5’8 and 175 lbs.

There are a ton of skill work in the sport of Crossfit:

  • handstand push ups
  • handstand walk
  • toes to bar
  • pistol squats
  • overhead squats
  • muscle ups
  • etc

And from our experience a lot of masters athletes could benefit from going back to the basics*

*going back to the fundamentals and building back upon them.

How is your double under proficiency?

Because let’s be real, if you aren’t running for the Crossfit Games (and even if you are) your shoulders could benefit from getting a break from ripping out sets of toes to bar.

For example:

  • getting extremely proficient at V Ups instead of toes to bar for a short period of time

We aren’t suggesting to never do a toe to bar again or any of the high skill gymnastics movements but making sure you never neglect the basics and pressing the re-set button is always a great idea.

This is what we doing within our training cycles throughout the year.

crossfit engine
Cardio training

Building A Robust Cardiovascular System

We’ve talked about mobility, strength, skills, we haven’t touched on “engine” training or having great cardio.

Imagine being able to go longer and feel good in challenging workouts. As a masters athletes you probably have backed down the weights or percentages a touch so it’s likely the conditioning demands are more challenging.

With that being said ideally we are looking to get more intensity out of you. For example if a workout calls for:

Every 3 minutes until you miss the 3 minute interval (more more than 5 rounds)

  • 10 x burpee box jump
  • 9 x clean and jerk
  • 8/6 x muscle up

Barbell weight:

Men – 165/135/105

Women – 115/85/55 lbs

crossfit masters program
Let me show you how to make it more suitable for masters athletes

A masters variation could be:

  1. less reps for entire workout
  2. increase the time frame by 30-60 seconds
  3. just deadlifts instead of the clean and jerk (or maybe one round deadlift, the other round shoulder to overhead)
  4. decrease the weight to something that is manageable
  5. reduce the reps for the muscle ups or just a muscle up drill that will be challenging for the athlete

This is an example of how you see scaling within our masters program. To check out our programming and join guys like Tanner, click on the image below!

Implement Proper Recovery Strategies

We’ve talked briefly about recovery and training volume throughout this entire blog post but how do you actually measure that.

Know if you are doing enough or too little?

First thing we would encourage you to do, is to reach out to your coaches and have a conversation with them. If you don’t have a coach, then here are some things to be mindful of.


Listen to your body.

We believe in training hard, and recovering even harder. Although there are a ton of things you can to do help optimize recovery between training sessions getting adequate rest each night is crucial.

We encourage our athletes to:

  • get 7-9 hours of rest each night
  • put phones and gigital devices away by 8
  • spend 15 minutes stretching (following our mobility protocol each night)
I personally wear a Garmin Pro chest strap

Heart Rate Variability

I personally wear a gamin watch and a Garmin pro chest strap monitor. What I’m measuring is stress.

Remember your body doesn’t know the difference between:

  1. physical stress (working out)
  2. mental (work, business, thought)
  3. emotional stress (relationships, etc)

So managing stress is a huge part of your ability to recover properly. We like to refer to it as “too much in your cup”…if you have too much stress in your cup, it begins to boil over and burn you.


So why do I wear the heart rate monitor?

To see how my body is feeling for the day and here are a few ways how:

  • every night I wear my watch it tracks my heart rate. If my normal resting heart rate is 43, but I wake up and see that last night my resting heart rate was at 49, I know my body didn’t recover as well as normal and I’m a little “revved up”.

I use that data to dictate how my training session will go.

zone 2 training
Always listen to your body

Zone 2

So if my heart rate is a little “revved up” and my body isn’t fully recovered there are a few things I can do:

  1. Get started. Show up at your scheduled training time anyway, go through your warm up and take note of how you feel for the day and re-evaluate after warm up.
  2. Get in some zone 2 conditioning training and mobility work.
  3. Go through the workout at 60% and prioritize positioning.

After the warm up if I’m still feeling a bit run down we might switch to some zone 2 training and some mobility work.

Another way to tell if your body isn’t properly recovered is:

  • let’s say we are doing a 30 minute zone 2 run, and normally my heart rate is at 150 and I’m running at 8:30 pace per mile.
beginner crossfit workout
Learn to listen to your body

If I’m doing a run 30 minute zone 2 run (heart rate 150 for me) and I’m running at a 9:30 pace.

I’m running a minute per mile slower.

That’s a sign that my body is a little worn down. What’s my point here? Learn to listen to your body and make changes as needed.

More is NOT always better. Want more health related fitness tips? Complete the form below and I’ll send you insanely valuable emails to help you improve your health and performance.

Want my best fitness tips? ๐Ÿš€

Join our list and receive our best workouts tips every Tuesday ๐Ÿค™๐Ÿป


An effective masters program is learning to be more in tune with your body and not neglecting the basics.

Spending adequate time on mobility, compound lifts of strength training, going back to the fundamentals/refining your skills and learning to listen to your body.

Maximize your potential with our Crossfit masters program. Elevate your performance with effective mobility protocols, mindful training volume, and expert coaching.

crossfit masters program
Click on the image to learn more about our masters programming
mobility training

What’s the catch?

We will send you an insanely valuable 3 day mobility workshop where we guide you through the best mobility & activation techniques we have learned in the past decade in exchange for your email :)

By accessing this free course you agree to get periodical emails to help improve your positioning and performance.