Writing Crossfit workouts is my favorite thing to do as a coach. However, when I first entered this Crossfit world around 2012 I had ZERO idea how to write workouts.
Everything seemed extremely randomized and after over a decade being involved in the sport I have learned a ton.
In today’s blog post I’ll be covering:
- Understanding the principles of Crossfit programming
- Backstory of how I found Crossfit
- How to incorporate varied movements & intensity (mobility, strength, weightlifting, gymnastics, conditioning)
- Why it’s important to set clear goals and desired training stimulus
- Workout of the day outline
- How to scale Crossfit workouts
- Big picture (programming)
If you are an athlete or a coach wanting to take your fitness to the next level, check out our training programs by clicking here.
Understanding The Principles Of Crossfit Programming
There is actually a lot that goes into Crossfit programming and writing workouts. If you think about what Crossfit is defined as it’s:
Constantly varied high intensity functional movements.
I think everyone is over ripping on this but just to be clear, high intensity does not mean sacrificing form. You never want to sacrifice form. Below we’ll talk about how to scale workouts to your ability level and how to structure a workout schedule.
Small Backstory Of How I Found Crossfit
What I love about Crossfit is it’s constantly varied and the workouts are challenging you in a different way and being prepared for anything.
After my athletic career I didn’t know what to train for. I had played basketball for the last 10 years at a high level (yes, even though I’m short) I didn’t know what to train for.
Chest and triceps, back and biceps and endless super sets just got boring after awhile.
I started competing in triathlons because I wanted to do something more challenging.
So then I started doing triathlons because I wanted to race and challenge myself mentally and physically and have something to train for.
But, I got too skinny.
I wanted to have more muscle, be strong AND be able to do endurance events.
A few years later we had a new hire at the gym I was working at tell me about Crossfit as I was practicing gymnastics.
I had never heard of it. He told me about the 10 components of fitness:
- Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance
This got me really excited.
He explained to me how each Crossfit workout has different movements and intensity, and how you have to be:
“ready for any type of fitness test that comes your way”Kyle
I was hooked.
Read our full story of how I went from a personal trainer who got fired after 3 months, to becoming a professional athlete, to being the owner and creator of our fitness app and programming.
Let me give you some examples of how to design these workouts and incorporate this into your training schedule.
Incorporate Varied Movements & Intensity
What I love about the sport is you have to be ready for anything and there is so much skill involved.
And when there are skills involved it takes practice and training.
And I love to practice and work on specific skills, because it’s an opportunity to become efficient and learn new things.
When I think about the movements in the sport I think of:
If I could go back in time when I first started Crossfit I would spend a lot more time on my mobility.
Simply because the better your positions are the more efficient your movements are going to be. And that’s exactly what we have new athletes that join our program focus on first or begin to prioritize more than they think.
Better mobility = better positions = better performance.
Want to improve your mobility? Check this out.
Strength is the price of admission. We encourage athletes to work on unilateral strength (single arm/single leg) before getting into more compound lifts, but none the less:
- back squat
- front squat
- overhead squat
- strict press
- bench press
Those are compound movements that recruit a ton of muscle groups, then there are accessory movements that help support the larger lifts like:
- Bulgarian split squats
- weighted planks
- bamboo squats
- single arm rows
- banded palloff holds
- and a ton of others
Accessory movements lack in a ton of athletes program/workouts, if you want to see the right way to build strength…
…check out our strength program.
Strength training came “easy” for me.
Olympic weightlifting, specifically the snatch did not come natural to me. As I mentioned before the demands of mobility to get into an overhead squat was just about impossible for me and I had to work extremely hard at correcting those movement patterns.
- clean and jerk
To get better at clean and jerk and the snatch you don’t just do more of them. Just like accessory work that supports compound movements you do drills.
Drills to get better at Clean & Jerk
- master your front rack position
- high hang and (3 position cleans) high high, above the knee, below the knee
- press in jerk position
- jerk balance
- tall jerk
- and more
Drills to get better at Snatch
- snatch balance
- snatch drop
- overhead squat holds
- snatch deadlifts
- 3 position snatches
- snatch high pulls/complexes
If you want to master the snatch, check out our snatch foundations course designed to help you master the technique.
Gymnastics is my jam.
It’s the type of training I was doing when I got exposed to Crossfit, so I loved that the sport also included workouts/challenges with this in mind.
Let me also share with you something interesting about my strength journey. I was following popular strength programs like (5,3,1, Texas method, 5×5, etc) and I was having a difficult time getting stronger.
I started incorporating my gymnastics training more into my programming and my numbers went through the roof.
I believe this is because of how well gymnastics training strengthens your core and body positions.
Gymnastics movements that come to mind are:
- strict pull ups, kipping pull ups, butterfly pull ups
- bar muscle ups, ring muscle ups,
- strict handstand push ups, kipping handstand push ups,
- handstand walking
- pistol squats
- toes to bar
- l sits
And of course there are others as well. But all of those movements are high skill movements and you can’t do those without having mastered the fundamentals first.
We know a lot of athletes struggle with progressing or being able to “RX” more workouts. We have worked really hard at creating a fitness app that would act as a coach to help you scale workouts, check out the video below:
Conditioning test also known as met cons can be a number of different things:
- emom (every minute on the minute)
- amrap (as many rounds or reps as possible)
- death by (starts off small, and every round you increase reps until you fail)
- for time (complete as fast as possible
You can piece together different exercises into:
- completes (2 exercises)
- triplets (3 exercises)
- buy in/cash out
Several different ways you can create a workout (we’ll give you an outline below) that will help you mold a workout better.
Some conditioning options:
- assault bike, c2 bike, echo bike,
- ski erg
- double unders
Set Clear Goals & Desired Training Stimulus
When designing a workout as coaches we often talk about what time domain are we looking for?
Do we want the workout to take:
- 0-4 minutes
- 6-10 minutes
- 18 minutes+
Because each of the time domains are a different level of intensity and effort required in a workout.
All workouts can’t just be pure power output.
To be well rounded in the sport you have to train different time domains through the week and lots of different variations.
Let’s take a workout like the hero workout, Helen.
3 rounds for time:
- Run x 400 meters
- 21 x kettlebell swing
- 12 x pull up
Run fast and do everything unbroken. If you know you are going to crash and burn on set one…shoot for negative splits and get faster on each run, not the other way around.
Threshold. When we look at workouts we ask our athletes to see where the majority of the work is done. In this workout example it’s all on the runs. So we tell our athletes to put your energy and your efforts into the run.
The kettlebell swings should act as active recovery and the pull up reps are small enough to go unbroken.
We are full believers in scaling workouts to get the right intensity for YOU. Check out the next section below to see how we encourage athletes to do this.
How To Scale Crossfit Workouts
Scaling workouts is essential to help you get the desired trainman stimulus. On a very basic level if the workout above asked for 3 rounds of run 400, 21 kettlebell swings and 12 pull ups…
…but you can only do 3 pull ups at a time, well you are going to miss the desired stimulus.
Because you will be doing sets of 3 and maybe even singles on your pull ups.
That’s not the intention of the workout.
Workout Of The Day Outline
I’ve given you a ton of education, not it’s time to give you some framework that we like to use for when we program workouts.
Depending on how much time you have available you may not be able to complete the entire suggested flow. If that’s the case we encourage you to prioritize what you have time for.
Keep it simple. Here you are just trying to get your heart pumping, get some blood flowing and begin to prime the movement pattern coming up for later in the workout.
For example if you are going to be squatting, you may:
- bike to get blood flow to your legs and elevate your HR
- do some lunges and or wall sit
This section here is what I like to call “pre-hab” it’s the stuff you would do in physical therapy if you got injured. Soooo, why not do it before you get hurt?
Doing exercises like:
- banded palloff holds
- and other stability exercises will only help bulletproof your body
- or improving your front rack position
Depending on your goals we would point you in different directions. For instance in our GPP program we offer two different options for the strength section.
Option A (more experienced lifters)
- more compound lifts
- olympic lifting
- build to heavy for the day, or 3-5 RM
- % work
Option B (great for beginner -intermediate) or body just needs more recovery
- more unilateral work
- high reps
- more tempo
This varies depending on the day, but we do like to perform our met-cons after strength work for this reason:
Let’s say we had a heavier squat session and then in our met con we have lighter weight thrusters.
Your thrusters are going to feel a lot lighter and we believe you will be able to move the barbell faster.
Our met cons could include:
- med balls, kettlebells, dumbbells, sandbag, rope, rings, boxes, etc you name it.
Some of our favorite crossfit rowing workouts are a great sub for a met con too.
Our gymnastics piece we like to keep extremely simple and just as a place to build capacity.
Consider things like:
10 minute emom
7 reps x the skill you want to get better at
8, 6, 4 resting as little as possible between sets at the skill you want to get better at. For instance if you want to get better at ring muscle ups, here are some progressions.
Here is when we just get little burn out of the muscle grip we worked that day. For example if it was a pull focused day with pull ups.
We would do 30 seconds on 30 seconds off of some additional grip work like:
- farmer carry
- plate pinch carries
- grip pumpers
Things of that nature. Check out this post for more things to strengthen your grip.
Big Picture (Programming)
Creating a workout is one thing.
Being able to look at the big picture is another. That’s when the real art of creating a program comes in. It’s taking a step back and getting a birds eye view of everything you are doing this week, month, or in the next few months.
Because if you are doing too much of one area of your training you are likely to burnout or put yourself at risk of injury.
We believe in training hard, and recovering harder.
Crossfit workouts at their best are fun, thoughtful and incorporating constantly varied functional movements at hight intensity.
Mix it up.
Some workouts challenge yourself to go all out and others challenge your capacity.
Each workout have an intended focus for the day "pulling, pushing, squatting, hinging) but don't completely wax yourself to where you can't move the next day.
Love the education but just want a sweet training program to follow that matches your goals? Check out our training programs!