In CrossFit we call the workout plan programming. Every week, I program workouts for you based on my knowledge and experience with the human body. And what I do is different from what others do, and that's ok. Today I'll tell you the mindset behind CFBA programming so you have an understanding of WHY you do what you do at the gym.
Some of you looking for a good nap, here it is…Others may be looking for their own philosophies, feel free to use some of mine. Or maybe you're looking just to see, here it is….First of all, as a physical therapist, and someone who sees a variety of injuries I program for SAFETY!
I program for general physical preparedness (GPP). The idea that a person will be prepared for anything at any time. I want our gym members to be the most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse. I want you to lift heavy loads quickly and carry them for long distances. I want you to run, row, swim and bike longer than the other people that were eaten by zombies.
I want you to be able to save lives by lifting a car off somebody that is pinned, or pulling someone up from the side of a cliff. But I also want you to be able to play with your kids more and longer, help others more, stay out of the nursing home and anything else that you want to pursue. We do this by constantly varying our workouts. Some workouts will be short, some long, some light, some heavy, some with a lot of cardio and some without any. I do this to challenge you.
We often encourage failure, knowing that it is the fastest way to grow. As you become more familiar with failure and learn that it is not the end, just another step in your journey you will start to attempt more. You might apply for a new job or promotion, enter a competition you've never had the courage for, or even pursue new relationships. In short, you're a better person because of the weights that you lift and the failures you overcome. I program to teach that failure is not the worst thing to happen with trying. In fact, not trying is the worst thing that could happen!
This philosophy unfolds in a few different ways. First, we always do functional movements. These are defined as natural and effective movements utilizing multi-joints and working on a core to extremity contraction pattern. They mimic movements seen in daily life. This means, you won't do lateral raises and front raises (a movement that has garnered me many patients). We won’t be doing bicep curls or leg extensions (because they don’t mimic daily life, unless you are a kicker in the NFL…).
Functional movements are inherently safe because they use multiple muscle groups. For example, a squat uses movement around the toes, ankles, knees, hips and lumbar spine to move an outside object. Although you can work all of those muscles individually with machines and exercises (even I do as a PT), working them together can elicit a much greater neuromuscular response than working them individually.
Secondly, I incorporate a lot of “prehab” exercises in our weekly routines. Our members will attest that we spend a little extra time each week working on scapular stabilization exercises, to reduce shoulder overuse problems because of workouts. Also, focusing on these exercises improves shoulder strength and allows us to lift more weight and complete more and better gymnastics activities, thus improving workouts and improving overall fitness. I have special “no shoulder” and “no impact” days that are written into my programming in which I give these joints a break and allow for “active rest”.
Third, we have “recovery week”. Many members at my gym will tell you that it is anything but a recovery. Let me explain, during “recovery week”, I decrease the volume in a week and we focus on mobility of all the major joints of the body. The decreased volume often allows for an increased intensity level during workouts. So, athletes are working harder, but don't have as much volume to recover from. Many athletes may improve their mobility to the point where they are increasing their range of motion with a movement and that could cause soreness. Athletes don’t feel that they are “recovering” but the decreased volume goes a long way for their body.
Fourth, I program time to practice skills 2-3 times per week. This means, setting aside time to work on double unders, handstand pushups, pullups, muscle ups, and other movements that require a lot of proprioception (knowing where your body is in space). When you get to practice these movements, you feel more confident about the workouts and notice changes quickly. This practice allows athletes to improve the next area…strength.
It could be a deadlift, squat, Olympic movement, press or some other challenge. We work on improving strength, power and power endurance with our lifts. We may lift at the beginning of a workout or the end, in a fatigued state. We vary the lifts, weights and complexes every week to improve overall strength. Although we can have muscle imbalances that can cause pain and dysfunction (PT talk), I have never heard anyone say, “I am just too strong….” The confidence that is exhibited as people get stronger and achieve feats of strength they never have before is amazing to see and translates well beyond human movement.
Finally, I program for fun! The bottom line is, nobody will show up if they are not having what they perceive as fun!
If you don’t show up, you are not achieving your goals and we have no influence on you. We can’t help you with their diet, your form, your work situations or anything else if you are not coming in on a regular basis. The more fun you have, the more you'll be in the gym. For me, this means programming a little bit of “downtime” every day for you to connect with friends and allowing your coaches to connect with you and find out your problems and goals. It also means playing games. We play games 2-3 times per week during class. Smiles and laughter are a sign of a good gym and a close-knit community. We program partner and team workouts that allow people to connect and have more of a “shared suffering”. This brings people together and allows them to have more fun on a daily basis.
In the past, it was believed impossible for one person to back squat 500 pounds and run a mile in less than 5 minutes. With the philosophies of CrossFit and Greg Glassman, we are finding that it is possible, and not just for the freaks of genetics. Normal people are working hard and finding that they can improve as well! I can’t tell you how many in my gym have improved their mile time AND their strength numbers. This philosophy is a perfect way to get incredibly fit and test it. I realize that there have always been “fitness” tests (one rep max, triathlon/marathon, competitive biking), but none have been as all inclusive as we have with CrossFit. I really try to include broad fitness in my programming. We run (monostructural activities) and lift heavy and work on gymnastics and try to keep it as even as possible.
So there you have it! Simple, right? This is a general idea of our weekly programming. I focus on providing each of these opportunities for you to improve yourself and be the most well-rounded athletes around. Feel free to ask any questions you have regarding programming. I am always down for a good discussion regarding ideas and philosophies.