Since we started the program there have been many questions that have come up.
What is this program?
This is a strength and conditioning program designed for athletes who participate in competitive fitness events like The CrossFit Games. Thus the programming is designed around the CrossFit season. However, it can be modified to fit the season of any sport and specific needs of any athlete in any sport.
Well, that is for you to decide. However, the program assumes you have met some minimum strength and conditioning levels generally seen in athletes at the Regional level of CrossFit competitions. The program isn’t really designed to “ramp-up” to those levels. In other words, this program is designed around the “Regional-ready” athlete.
I am not a Regional level athlete. Can I still benefit from the program?
The short answer is, yes. But you will need to acclimate yourself to the volume, load, intensity, and skill level of the work to fully benefit. How you do that is up to you. But a good option would be to follow CrossFit.com or the general workout of your gym and work your weaknesses.
Dude, what’s your philosophy?
What I’ve heard lately in the community is the competitive fitness athlete now needs to be good at everything. I disagree. In a nutshell, the athlete is an Olympic lifting, middle distance running, acrobat (he’s really good at pullups). The athlete doesn’t need to be good at everything, he needs to be great at those three things and pretty damn good at the rest. This program is designed around this premise.
You can read more about the Black Star philosophy here.
Are we going to run? Are we ever going to do presses? When will we do “Fran” or yoke carries or blah, blah, blah?
Listen, I am not reinventing the wheel here or doing anything especially groundbreaking. Really, it’s not that difficult folks. It ain’t rocket science. The way to achieve elite fitness is to mix functional movements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow and perform them at a high intensity across broad time and modal domains. This is exactly what we will be doing in this program. So yes, we will run, we will lift heavy and light, and we will perform “Fran”. There is nothing that is common in CrossFit that we will not do. In fact, we will likely do it more frequently than we have before.
The difference in our program and a typical CrossFit program for general fitness is simply the focus on some elements over others and the approach in which we perform them (volume and intensity). Based on past CCF events organized by HQ, it makes sense for us to concentrate on certain elements and that’s what we are going to do. The table highlights the potential frequency with which we will see these elements appear in our program.
|Near daily||Multiple times per week or weekly||Weekly or near bi-weekly||Occasionally||Rarely|
|Olympic lifts and their derivatives in many variations.
|Toes to bar.
Handstands and derivatives.
Air and one-legged squats.
GHD raises and extensions.
Monkey bar traverse.
Throwing and striking.
Other weird shit.
|Anything at any time.|
This is not a comprehensive list nor could it ever be. Although in CCF we have events and elements that are more probable to appear over others, we can never say for certain. But it will be my aim to prepare you for whatever you might see.
Can I go heavier? Can I do this in addition to that? Can I do more than Rx? Can I do “Murph”?
There is really one answer I can give to this question and it is best said in this video…
…but if you really care about your progression, you will listen to me. Management of volume is a key component of the program and if you’re doing a bunch of extra garbage, you’re effin’ up!
Can I scale?
Yes. You must scale if you cannot adequately handle the weight. Much of the program is based on percentages of your 1, 3, and occasionally your 5 rep maxes. It is designed to get you to perform optimally in terms of power output. It is also designed to optimize your recovery while still allowing you to handle proportionately heavy weight in a consistently progressive manner. Handling weights that are too heavy undermines this process and will stunt your improvement.
You must also scale gymnastics based movements if you do not currently have those movements. But you must do so properly. Do the progressions to the movements, not some alternative. You must make a concerted effort to master the movement over time. Do not settle for bullsh*t mechanics.
Ben, are all our met-cons really going to be under 7 minutes?
C’mon. This one is hilarious because it’s a clear indicator you didn’t read the “The User’s Guide” I slaved over night after night. Or you just gave it a half-assed glance. The overview of the program is there. I have a good mind to say, go back and read the book. But since I’m here I may as well say again.
Our competitive/speed conditioning will favor, though not exclusively, sustained efforts of 7 or fewer minutes. Intensity, is what we’re after and longer workouts simply reduce intensity. In order to keep intensity high, our competitive conditioning will be interval based. In fact, since much of our conditioning work will be interval based, this will allow us to continue to train for longer periods overall while simultaneously getting better quality adaptations from the bout. Paradoxically, your ability to perform longer workouts in competition will increase if you favor shorter, more intense efforts in training. Bottom line is, several highly intense 1 – 5 minute intervals, with deliberately interspersed rest periods, will be more effective than one 15 – 20 minute sustained effort.
I can’t make it on Sundays and Wednesdays. Can I make up the work on another day? Can I replace something else for those days?
Here’s what I would say to that. We all have obligations outside of CrossFit. The bottom line is, consistent deviation from the program is as good as not doing the program at all. You have to assess what is important to you and adjust your life accordingly. This is extremely difficult to do, especially for those of us who want to have it all. But here’s the truth – YOU CANNOT HAVE IT ALL! You must choose. Most times those choices are not easy to come to, but if you choose correctly, they will reward you.
So the answer is yes, you can make up the work (if you can coordinate time in the gym with a coach) and you can do alternative work if this is the best solution for you. But I would rather see you do the program as constructed. Try to find a way to do that.
If you miss the occasional workout, don’t worry about it. One day here or there will not make or break you. So don’t fret.
What are you basing all your programming on?
I’ve been in sport (football, track, baseball, basketball, tennis) since I was a little kid and haven’t stopped since. I was informally coached by professional bodybuilders by the age of 12 and have been weight training ever since. My love of sport and training for sport took me to a college football and track scholarship and paid for a decent education and provided an (unsuccessful) shot at the pro level. Along the way I’ve always been the guy who was interested in ways to improve which lead me to an endless amount of articles, books and the occasional professional certification on strength, conditioning and speed. Although I make my livelihood in another profession, I never lost my desire to help athletes, including myself, get better. So much of my programming ideas come from an intuition that has been developed by participating in (including CrossFit competitions) and studying physical improvement over a 35 year period.
Another source for programming ideas is CrossFit HQ. Everything I will be programming is profoundly influenced by Gregg Glassman and his many disciples. Additionally, there are some trainers and coaches out there whose approach to teaching and programming physical improvement for athletes suit the CCF athlete well. And this program is in part, a constellation of those philosophies. Those individuals who have most influenced the construction of this program are Glassman of course, Louie Simmons (powerlifting, conjugate periodization), Joe DeFranco (strength and conditioning, speed), Ivan Abadzhiev (Olympic lifting), Tudor Bompa (sports conditioning, periodization) and Peter Weyand and Barry Ross (speed, track and field). There are also a handful of studies by several individuals/groups in the area of speed and endurance development that will influence the structure of the programming.
Finally, I am not above stealing good ideas from others in the CrossFit community. Do not be surprised if you see a similar strength series or similar met-con programmed somewhere. I am not into reinventing the wheel or ego. Bottom line, I am doing this because it feels good to help others achieve their goals in a sport I have come to love. So I will share freely. And I will definitely steal good stuff from others and use it to help my athletes.
What is the periodization schedule?
Without delving into minutia, let me just say that the year is broken up into 4 large chunks (cycles), each with a particular focus. The first cycle which begins right after the Regionals or the Games if you’re fortunate, is focused on recovery, strength gains and speed development. The second is where volume is likely to increase, we begin to try to increase work capacity and tighten up our gymnastic skills. The third, which I will call the pre-season, is where our conditioning begins to closely mimic what we will see in competition and our strength focus is on muscle endurance. And the last is in season and we will be looking to maintain all our gains.
That being said, I don’t much buy into the whole “peaking” concept. We make use of periodization simply because working on certain aspects of our game is optimal at certain times. Now that might be semantics, but so be it.
We just did squats. Why are we doing them again?
There is a good video series on the CrossFit Journal in which Dave Castro talks about programming. One thing he points out is CrossFit constructs workouts based on movement, not by body part. At the same time, as he points out, you have to be smart about it. He explains the trainer shouldn’t program squats 3 days in a row.
Castro was talking about programming for regular folk, which if you are doing this program, you are not. There will be occasions where you will do very similar moves several days in a row. Not because it’s optimal training, but because it will inevitably happen at a CCF event. Take the Regionals of 2012. There were 3 days of squats, of varying loads and intensities. We must be prepared for that.
That said, I will not program like that. I will deviate from the normal practices of CrossFit programming and take into account movements that involve the same patterns and body parts and try to allow you recovery time from each bout. Louie Simmons builds this into his programs, having upper body days, lower body days, max effort days and dynamic effort/speed days. I will employ some of that thinking. Thus, while there will be the occasion where you will see similar movements in consecutive days because this is what we will see in competition, I will not make it a practice. And when it does happen, I will vary the load, the reps and the intensities of each bout.
Today’s workout said do “Strength” before “Conditioning” but I did it the other way around. Is that ok?
Again, refer to this video. But if you want to do the program properly, follow the order of the workout as I’ve laid it out.
Today’s workout said rest XX minutes between “Strength” and “Conditioning” but I just did strength in the morning and did my conditioning in the evening. Is that ok?
Actually yes. Splitting the day up into morning and evening sessions, or at least having a rest period of several hours between each component, is optimal. I try to design the day so it can be accomplished in about 1 to 1.5 hours in a single session if need be. But if you can split it up into AM/PM sessions, that is actually better.
I know there will be more questions. I’ll answer them here as they come up.