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Why are we squatting again this week?!

Posted by Sean Hutchinson on January 29, 2015 at 10:50 AM

So, I’ve had a few people ask me over the last few months about the theory behind the chaos that is the programming at CrossFit Towson. I figured instead of answering with a short brief response at the beginning of class I’d go ahead and put some thoughts into a blog and share it with you all.

I’ll be the first to admit, I am no master programmer when it comes to CrossFit. I am still in the learning process to this very new sport/training methodology if you can call it that. First we’ll look at CrossFit’s definition of CrossFit training. “Constantly Varied, High Intensity, Functional Movement” and “Increase Work Capacity Across Broad Time and Modal Domains”. So to put that into layman’s terms: “Let’s do something different everyday, that’s very intense, and uses compound/full body movements.” And “We want to increase your ability to do work in different ranges of time with and different combinations of movements and exercises.”

So now that we have that out of the way I can talk about what I think about when I program for CrossFit Towson. The first thing I think about before I even get into the WOD is the strength. I am seeing a growing trend in CrossFit programming around the world of gyms focusing more on strength work. Let’s get real. You’re never going to get a huge squat or clean from doing 100+ reps a day with 135#’s. It’s just not going to happen. If you don’t take a little bit of time to dedicate purely to strength and technique you’re going to progress very slowly overall in the long run. I think about CrossFit like this. If I can clean 300+lbs then 135#’s on grace is going to be a lot easier for me than the guy who only cleans 185#’s. I’m not saying strength is the only thing you need in CrossFit but it is definitely a great base to have right along with mobility. The program I follow for strength is loosely based on the training I did (and still do) at LSUS for 8 years. It is based on 12-16 week training cycles that follow a form of periodization. We spend about 3-4 weeks working different repetition ranges in order for our body’s to adapt and increase our overall strength to put it simply. We only do 1 exercise a day usually working up to a 10,5, 3, 2 or 1RM followed by some drop sets at a lighter percentage. It’s amazing how doing 1 simple strength movement a day can produce such drastic results. We have literally had guys and girls double their back squats within 9 months of training. We now have several 300+lb deadlifters for men and almost all the girls can deadlift over 200+s. We also have a few guys squatting in the 300’s now and even girls squatting in the 200’s. The proof is in the results and it works.

Let’s move onto the WOD…this is where it gets complicated. Here are some things I like to consider when programming:

How many days a week are we open?

How frequently are we going to perform certain movements?

Which movements do we need to focus on more frequently?

How many reps of each exercise are we going to do per week?

How much weight (tonnage) are we going to lift this week?

How is the combination of movements going to affect the body?

How much time is enough to get the desired effect?

Is it a sprint? Is it a marathon? Is it an interval?

How is yesterday’s workout going to effect today’s?

Are these movements targeting our weaknesses?

Are these movements scalable?

These are just a few questions I think about when programming. SO ideally if I were programming for an individual I would know exactly what days of the week they are training and specific weaknesses to address. Unfortunately with group training this isn’t so simple. Some people come 3 days per week and some come everyday. That rules out programming short days and long day. What if somebody only comes MWF and you always put squats on Tuesday? Well shit…There’s another issue. That’s why I try to rotate movements so they don’t always fall on the same day. It’s an unfortunate part of programming for the masses but it is what it is. I don’t like to program too many “rest/easy” days because what if you always come in on a rest day and you don’t get the intensity you need to cause a change in the body? This is my favorite one….”WHY DID WE DO ______ exercise so much this week?!”. Well let’s look at it like this. We have 2 different types of strengths we are trying to target: Muscular strength and muscular endurance. So yesterday we did 5RM back squat with some drop sets….today we did 100 air squats. Those 2 things look similar but they are targeting 2 completely different factors in your training. In CrossFit we will probably use every muscle group every single day. Some days may seem more intense for certain muscle groups but that’s just how it is when you are doing full body movements on a daily basis. This is when it comes in handy to either A. take a rest day or B. modify your workout. I know it’s frustrating when you don’t RX a WOD but we need to focus on the big picture and not just today!

That get’s me back to RX…this frustrates me more than anything in the world when I see people that don’t need to be doing RX that do it anyways. Even when I kindly suggest they lighten it up. What happens when we go to heavy or pick too complicated of a movement just so we can put that little RX button on Wodify is that we sacrifice the quality of the workout we are doing. CrossFit is all about intensity right??? So why would you pick a weight/ movement that you spend half the workout resting when you could be getting good quality reps in? Check the ego at the door, scale your movements and eventually you WILL be able to RX the WOD and do it with the appropriate intensity!

Well, I hope this gives you just a little insight into what goes into programming at CrossFit Towson. The main advice I can give is to come in consistently and you will see results if you take the time to listen and ask questions if you have them. See you in the box!

-Coach Sean

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