“The magic is in the movements, the art is in the programming, the science is in
the explanation and the fun is in the community.”
- Greg Glassman
This quote pretty much sums up what CrossFit is all about. Everything we do here at CrossFit Woodbury is in support of that statement. So to get into the overall philosophy, let’s look at the different parts of that statement.
“The magic is in the movements…”
This is first for a reason. It is the most important of all. So, when new athletes start with us we begin their fitness journey by introducing them to the basic movements of CrossFit. For many this can seem a little overwhelming. Finding out that there can be more to fitness than just doing it can be quite a shock. What we try to do is instruct each athlete in the movements and then, once proper form is in place, we begin to increase the load and or range of motion until the athlete is performing all of the movements Rx’d in the WOD (As Prescribed in the Workout Of the Day). Ensuring proper form is the best way to keep out athletes free from injury.
To insure that our coaching staff understands and is capable of teaching movements properly and detecting and correcting improper form is my foremost concern as head coach. To insure that I have the proper information I have attended a variety of Specialty Certifications:
I did this so that before changing careers and opening a gym, I would have a good understanding of as many of the various movements of CrossFit to enable our athletes to be efficient and safe when training with us. I also wanted to make sure that when I was asked a question, I had the best information available.
“… the art is in the programming…”
There are many ways to effectively program CrossFit workouts. I attended three different gyms before I became head coach here. I attended three different gyms and learned three distinct ways of programming. Two of them were very good, and one was absolute crap. What I have chosen as the defining model for my programming is based on my experience as a CrossFitter and what I learned in all of the various specialty certifications that I attended. So, let’s start with how an average workout at CFW would look;
At the start of each class you will complete an “individual” (generally done with one or 2 others that you talk to) Warm Up. I have been to gyms that have a more structured, group warm up. Some people really like these, but I prefer the less structured version. Mainly because we are essentially a bedroom community, and our athletes are busy people trying to fit a workout in between work and family. I find that the unstructured warm up is less disruptive if someone shows up a little late. Not that we necessarily encourage tardiness; but we understand.
Next, you will most likely look at the Whiteboard for the strength component of the day. There are many different Strength Component philosophies out there today. I have chosen to use a system that allows the athlete the freedom to choose how hard they want to go on any particular Strength Component. Many of the systems require athletes to do reps at certain percentages of 1 rep max’s. I have found that this can confuse athletes and can confine them to working only within those percentages, not allowing for a day when an athlete just feels abnormally strong and wants to exceed the limits placed on them by the percentages. Strength components are generally Power Lifting movements and I rely heavily on the programming template put forth by CrossFit Football.
After that you will prepare for the WOD. The coach will go over the movements for the WOD and ensure that all of our athletes are comfortable with the movements and the load that they have selected for the workout. If the coach is concerned with an athlete's choice of load or unfamiliarity with a movement, they will help that athlete to find a suitable scale for that particular movement or recommend a reduced load so that the athlete can safely complete the workout.
Who chooses the workouts and why are they chosen? I generally choose them with primary consideration to the mesocycle we are on so that we are able to emphasize the areas we are looking to ramp up. I also look at any big WODs that I want to work up to that might have some more technical movements in them. I don't want our athletes confronted with these movements without some supporting movements in the weeks and days leading up to that workout.
A few years ago programming was a little bit easier. We essentially programmed for the “Unknown and the Unknowable”. Basically getting you ready to run a 10k, Deadlift twice your body weight while playing tag with your kids in the back yard.. Then, in 2007 along came the CrossFit Games and the Sport of Fitness was born.
In order to participate in the sport of fitness we have to be ready at a certain time of year. Dave Castro, the master programmer for the CrossFit Games, continuously goes out of his way to surprise us every year. We have a pretty good idea what the workouts will look like as to movements and time domain. This allows for periodization of our training in an effort to peak for these events. The periodization model that we use is one that was put forth by Ben Bergeron of CrossFit New England, and you can see the video if you have a CrossFit Journal account. Once you’ve logged into your account search “Periodizing” and it will show up as the first hit. So, throughout the year we set our annual Macrocycle that allows us to peak for competition. To do this we go from a Mesoycle of Strength to a Mesocycle Endurance/Capacity and follow it with Intensity & Skill Building just before the big event.
Most of our athletes don’t realize this is happening. They might ask; “Why we are doing so many long workouts?” or “What happened to the strength component?” or sometimes we’ll hear; “Another seven minute AMRAP! Why can’t we do something long?”
Keeping in mind that we have a Macrocycle, our annual preparation for the CrossFit Games, and the Mesocycles, our athletes can choose to set up their own Microcycle within the Mesocycle’s programming. This is where athletes can emphasize certain aspects within the days programming to address certain weaknesses. Some athletes may need to build strength, so they might choose to do extra sets during the strength component, or they may be interested in getting faster and building more capacity, so they may choose to emphasize the MetCon.
What I like to program is a lot of Couplets and Triplets with traditional loads interspersed with a chipper now and then. Our programming has been described as “Traditional CrossFit”, which when I first heard it I was a little taken aback, I was not aware that there was anything about something as new as CrossFit that could be described as “Traditional”? With a nod to the periodization mentioned above I have come to embrace the idea that I am a “Traditional CrossFit Programmer”.
With all of that said we have a success rate with athletes all across the fitness spectrum. So, no matter your fitness level you will benefit. One of the most disturbing things that I hear from people that want to start CrossFit is that they need to get in shape before they start. This is not a good way to think about doing something new. Our Basic Training Program is designed to get you from the couch to the WOD safely in just 2 weeks. Your body and mind will adapt a lot quicker than you think to the demands you place on it. Don’t wait!
“… the science is in the explanation…”
If you have any questions regarding any of the movements then we can back it up by explaining it with biomechanics. If you have any questions about why high intensity workouts provide better results than more traditional training methods, there is some very interesting research being done at various universities on that subject. Two in particular include videos of famous CrossFit athletes at Pepperdine University:
A Metabolic Analysis of CrossFit's Elite: Part 1
A Metabolic Analysis of CrossFit's Elite: Part 2
Then there is always my favorite: FGB With Explanation
This one has a special place in my heart because it is about Fight Gone Bad. This was my first CrossFit workout, and I did it at my first Level 1 Certification seminar ( I was so overwhelmed with the information they provided I had to go back to make sure I had it all straight, and this was before there was a test). I think my Cert was a year or 2 after the video, but Coach Glassman was the lead instructor, and he explained it pretty much the way you see it in the video. Needless to say, I did not do very well. I think my score was 177. Pretty much everyone beat me, but to feel that bad, and to have done that poorly, and then to have had someone explain to me just exactly why I did poorly and felt bad was enough to make sure that I turned to CrossFit to advance my fitness.
“… the fun is in the community.”
The big difference between a CrossFit Gym and your basic “Globo Gym” is the community. This is one of those things that is best experienced, but if you would like to read something about it then I recommend this article by CJ Martin of CrossFit Invictus in San Diego:
"Don't Workout With Strangers"
I first met CJ at our Level 1 Certification seminar in San Diego and I was lucky enough to attend classes at his gym when he first opened. I can speak from first hand experience that he put a lot of effort into creating a great community at CrossFit Invictus. This is obvious to all who have watched the CrossFit Games and have seen the “Sea of Green”. They have by far the largest cheering section in the stands every year.
Hopefully this at least begins to answer some of the questions you might have about what goes into what we do and if you are not one of our athletes, hopefully it will encourage you to give it a try. I think you will be surprised at what a supportive, stress free environment we have. That combined with challenging workouts is a fantastic formula for getting fit.
- Coach Matt Burns