First and foremost, we train CrossFit. That means
- We train functional movements that are safe and effective
- We constantly change our training so that our progress never stagnates and we never get bored
- We train at high intensity, because that’s the key to getting results
Do we do that crazy stuff you saw on ESPN? Yeah, a little. Do we do CrossFit.com workouts? Yeah, sometimes. Do we do the stupid and dangerous things you saw in that YouTube video? No, not quite. As convenient as it might be, you can’t really fit our training into any one neat little box with clear boundaries. But we do guide our CrossFit training with some important principles.
Appropriate for All Abilities
Our system is applicable to every person of every ability level. We have trained everyone from kids to the elderly. We have trained athletes with permanent limitations and athletes recovering from temporary injuries. We love training people from all walks of life, with movements appropriate for their ability levels. We publish three scaled versions of the workout (Gold, Silver, and Bronze) every day for you to peruse. But the scaling doesn’t stop there. Every single day, without exception, we modify movements and loads based on the needs of individual athletes. If Bronze still looks intimidating–don’t worry. We’re not concerned with you being able perform any specific movement with any particular load. We’re concerned about improving your life, in whatever form that takes.
Mark Rippetoe once said, “Physical strength is the most important thing in life. This is true whether we want it to be or not.” Rip is a wise, old dude. He’s not talking about the strength to win a powerlifting meet. He’s talking about the strength to carry a backpack up an incline on a hike with your kids, or the strength to catch yourself when you fall, or having the muscle mass and bone density to get back up after the fall with a few scuffs rather than a broken hip. The single thing that can make the largest improvement in your quality of life and your longevity is increasing your strength. But what’s the single physical characteristic that athletes lack the most when they start training with us? Strength. For that reason we dedicate time every day to improving our strength in one of six movements: snatch, clean, jerk, push/pull, back squat, and front squat. Through these powers combined (cue Captain Planet) we have designed a thorough strength and conditioning program that leaves nothing wanting. Everything is easier when you’re stronger. After several months of conditioning workouts, you’ll develop a decent “wind,” but it will take a few years to make you truly strong, so we’d better get started now.
The snatch, clean, and jerk are movements from Olympic weightlifting. You need a good coach to learn and perfect these movements, and that’s exactly what we provide at CrossFit Impulse–world-class coaching. We work the Olympic lifts each week. Not only are they fun to learn and practice, but they develop overall athleticism better than anything else. Practicing these lifts develops a myriad of great qualities all at once: strength, speed, power, coordination, kinesthetic awareness– even confidence. If you’d like to dedicate even more time to training the Olympic lifts, then we offer a special Olympic Lifting Class at 5:00 PM on every weekday. This class is followed by a short conditioning class called Rx+. Together, these two classes follow programming from Rudy Neilsen’s “The Outlaw Way.” This is a great program for those looking to take their training to the next level.
On most days we combine our strength work with a short and intense conditioning workout. The conditioning workout usually lasts 20 minutes or less. Sometimes it’s much shorter. We have some good reasons for this. First, short and intense workouts develop your ability to complete longer duration workouts more than you might think. If you can develop the ability to work really hard for 15 minutes, then staying moving for 30 minutes or more is just a matter of mental toughness. To develop that mental toughness, we’ll still go long once in a while, but not as our usual day of training. Long workouts like Murph and Eva are incredibly difficult tests of fitness. But a test shouldn’t be your normal day of training. A normal day of training prepares you for a test. Long workouts inevitably assign you a metric shit-ton of reps. Such a large volume of reps requires a lot of time for recovery and can lead to overuse injuries if done too often. You’ll develop faster and more safely with our short and intense conditioning workouts as your staple.
We focus on two skills each month: one at the beginning of the week and one at the end of the week. This ensures you perform enough consecutive work on the skill to create neuromuscular adaptation. It also ensures you get a rest period from each skill so you don’t get burned out. You can’t develop a tough skill by working on it randomly a couple times per month. You have to dedicate some serious time to it while still getting ample rest and recovery, and that’s exactly what we do. You’ll notice the selected skills for the month showing up in both the strength and conditioning portions of our workouts.
Some people would have you believe the conjugate method is voodoo and black magic. But in my opinion, if you can’t express something simply, then you don’t fully understand it. The conjugate method was developed by Russian weightlifting coaches. Louie Simmons popularized it when he applied it to powerlifting and started creating the strongest men in the world at Westside Barbell. The way we apply the conjugate method to our training is rather simple: Lift maximal loads each week, but not in the same movement each week. Lifting maximal loads is the key to developing strength. But lifting maximal loads repeatedly on the same lift week after week tears down your central nervous system beyond its ability to recover. By changing the maximal effort movement each week, even if the change is slight, you keep progressing and prevent stagnation.
We “wave” our workout volume week to week. Some weeks are really tough, some are just average, and some are pretty easy. This is deliberate. Our bodies adapt best when we impose a tough stimulus (a workout) and then remove the stimulus to allow recovery. Hans Selye first described this as General Adaptation Syndrome in 1936. But the idea doesn’t just apply to your daily workout. It also applies to your weekly and monthly volume of workouts. In essence, you get better results by changing the difficulty of your workouts from week to week. In any given month it’s best to have one or two average weeks, one or two weeks that really kick your ass, and a week of relatively easy workouts after one of the ass-kicking weeks. This gives you better results than just performing average weeks over and over. Exercise scientists, and particularly Russian weightlifting researchers like Roman and Laputin, have known this for decades. So if your training week has seemed particularly easy or particularly hellish, you’re not imagining things. It’s a not-so-secret plot to give you the strength of Odin!
We program our workouts in three-month cycles using a homemade template that integrates the concepts above. Then we sanity check it using a tool that tells us if we’ve accidentally ignored anything and massage it based on those findings. Finally, every Thursday we look at the next week’s programming and decide if any recent or environmental factors warrant a change. Did half the gym just participate in a fund-raiser 5k run? Then perhaps we’ll delay next week’s 5k run for a couple weeks. That’s just one example.
CrossFit is often criticized for “random” programming. I think you see by now that our programming is certainly not random. In fact, CrossFit uses very carefully selected workouts to prepare you such that if a random workout were thrown at you in a competition or emergency scenario, you would be best prepared to succeed.