Our New Programming Format

By: Tania Tétrault Vrga

Thank you to the kind members who have emailed me about the new format of our CrossFit programming. Last month, we went from having just 3 parts to having 5 to 6 parts in our daily workouts. This seems like a huge change! In reality, all we did was start posting specific warm-ups, prep work, and finishers, whereas in the past these components were left to the discretion of the coach.

As head coach, I trust our instructors to design appropriate warm-ups and cool downs. However, it dawned on me that if coaches don’t have to design a warm-up, they can focus those efforts on coaching and observing our members so that they get the most out of that warm-up. This approach not only allows us to stay on schedule, it provides a more consistent format to the classes over the course of the day. It also makes things a bit easier for the first class of the day.

For those of you who are interested in the nuts and bolts of the programming, here’s how it works. Our approach to programming has changed over the years. It even changes from season to season as it’s important to evolve with the needs of our clients.

We’ve tried all kinds of things over the years, and there are two main lessons I’ve learned in the process:

First, programming for a group can never be as personalized as programming for an individual. We can’t be everything to everyone in a group setting. That’s why personal training costs more than group classes. Most of us have strengths and weaknesses, and group programming can only address the most common of those weaknesses.

Secondly, there is no perfect or magical program. The best program is the one you do consistently. Any reasonably smart program will produce results, as long as it’s coached well, and performed mindfully, with the right level of intensity.

Over the past two years, we started favouring a type of periodization that works better in a group – something called concurrent periodization. This means that instead of gradually adjusting volume and intensity over a period of weeks or months, as we would do in linear periodization, we vary the volume and intensity over the course of a shorter period, such as one or two weeks.

One specific type of concurrent periodization, called the conjugate system, was popularized by Westside Barbell. The programming cycle we started last month is based on the conjugate template. It includes max effort days (waves, 3RMs, 5RMs, etc.) and dynamic days (lower weights done at higher speed). As always, for the program to work, it’s important to stick to the percentages and loads as prescribed. Heavier isn’t always better, and more isn’t always better.

This programming cycle also includes more barbell work as part of our conditioning workouts. This is a way to do more reps at lighter loads and it can be useful for members who want to compete in the Open or other CrossFit competitions. For those members working on general fitness rather than the sport of fitness, I recommend substituting kettlebells or dumbbells. Kettlebells are the perfect tool for conditioning workouts because the shape allows smooth cycling of the movements. Don’t hesitate to ask your coach for this as a modification.

This programming cycle also means some minor changes to the weekly schedule, which is even simpler than before. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are our more specific upper body & lower body progressions, whereas Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays are full body GPP, a.k.a. General Physical Preparedness days. Here’s a more specific rundown as to what the current cycle looks like. Note that this may change over the course of the coming months.

Mondays are lower body strength days, usually max effort days. This past month, you saw paused back squats and power snatch complexes.

Tuesdays are currently GPP days. This means we do general full body conditioning and work on balancing out the body with structural balance work, unilateral work and assistance work.

Wednesdays used to be our GPP days and are now our upper body days, some weeks dynamic and others max effort. This month our dynamic upper body exercise was the close grip bench press, which was done at lower loads for speed.

Thursdays are currently GPP days, similar to Tuesdays. On these days you’ll get a good full body conditioning workout, along with some really useful assistance work, unilateral work, and structural balance work.

Fridays are currently dynamic lower body days. This month, the movements we were working on are power cleans and front box squats, done for speed at lower loads.

Saturdays are similar to Tuesdays and Thursdays: full body GPP and assistance work.

Sunday CrossFit classes are an opportunity to make up a workout you missed from the week’s programming, or to do the workout of the day. If you missed any of the Monday, Wednesday or Friday workouts, I suggest making those up, as they contain important progressions. Please note that Sundays are still coached group classes, so you will need to choose one of the week’s workouts to make-up or do the workout of the day.

If you wish to work on specific skills outside of our group programming or the individual program I’ve assigned to you, please contact me so that we can review your goals and decide whether an Open Gym membership might benefit you. As always, if you have any questions about our programming, please send me an email or give me a call and I’m happy to chat about it!