If you aren’t a geek that desires to know every detail about your training, then this post isn’t for you. You can safely just follow the programming posted each week and reap the rewards without bothering with anything in here. But since you trust your programming to me, I figured I should at least show anyone that cares that I’m applying every bit of education and experience I have to making it the best it can be.
The first step that professional strength and conditioning coaches use to design a program is to perform a needs analysis. The idea is that after you have a set of needs, you can design a program to meet those needs. If you did this for basketball you would come out with needs like explosive leg strength, agility, anerobic capacity, and a few other qualities. But as it turns out, performing a needs analysis for CrossFit is really effin’ difficult. By definition of our sport, we need everything. So I had to rely primarily on experience in determining how to meet our need for “everything.”
Next, you examine the athlete and his/her training status. I generalized us as a whole and examined our team. I started by reflecting on the 2013-2014 season and our general strengths and weaknesses. I determined the following needs in order of priority:
- Aerobic capacity
- Fast glycolysis
- Oly lifting
As a team, what Open WODs did we suck on? 14.1 and 14.4. What’s the common theme there? Stamina and gymnastics. We fared a little better on 14.5, but stamina and aerobic capacity made it our third worst performance, which is why aerobic capacity appears third on the list. Our strength is good but it could be better. Strength makes everything easier, which is why it’s fourth. Hypertrophy is a necessary quality to enable strength, so it’s fifth. We are pretty good at fast glycolysis (power), which along with strength is why 14.3 went so well for us. In the case of speed, we aren’t that great at it, but until you make it to the Games level, you don’t really have to be great at it. Yes, improving our 400m run would improve our performances on Helen. But you have to set priorities and make sacrifices, so speed is near the bottom. Finally, we are relatively good at oly lifting, relative to our strength. We have athletes squatting only about 300 pounds yet snatching close to 200 pounds. That’s pretty damn good, especially for a CrossFitter. We want to improve our oly lifting, but compared to our levels of strength, we don’t suck at all. We might even be kinda good at it. Finally, the team is generally accustomed to high volume training. So we’re ready to go.
Using those needs I created a list of training cycles (mesocycles) that will meet those needs. All cycles will have a little bit of everything, but will have a definite focus. Here’s the mesocycles for the 2014-2015 off-season.
- Strength and Gymnastics
- Work Capacity
- Open (in-season)
You can see the full needs analysis below.
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Then I created our annual plan (macrocycle) based on the schedule for our primary competition, the CrossFit Open. The primary goal of this plan is to succeed in the CrossFit Open. That means maximizing your performance in the Open and preparing you to succeed at regionals on either an individual or team level. I then arranged the mesocycles into an order that makes sense. At first you might think that you should put the most important things first, but it doesn’t really work that way. Some things have to precede others. For example, hypertrophy must precede strength, because you get stronger that way. High volume, conditioning focused cycles must come later in the season, because that effect doesn’t persist as long as strength, and can actually inhibit strength development. So here’s the full annual plan:
[google-drive-embed url=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AgiDj3h2P4pUdDZkcHpOOTJQaHJPdVRhUERqVWVmTHc&output=html&chrome=false&widget=true” title=”Annual Plan” icon=”https://ssl.gstatic.com/docs/doclist/images/icon_11_spreadsheet_list.png” width=”100%” height=”400″ style=”embed”]
Every cycle has a little bit of everything. Don’t look at this and say,”We’re not doing any conditioning until six weeks before the Open?” That’s crazy talk. Even in the hypertrophy cycles, which will have the lowest volume of conditioning, we’re still conditioning three times per week. We’re also doing work capacity work, which will feel a lot like conditioning–and it is. Conditioning in general is one of our weaknesses, so we can’t afford to go full tilt meathead at any point in the season.
Finally, I took a cue from Ute CrossFit and created a list of minimum standards for men and women. Before you freak out, these are not standards that mean “meet these standards or get out.” That would not be very effective, or nice. Instead, this list of standards is meant to give you some realistic goals to shoot for. It’s also meant to help you identify weaknesses and focus your work. Can you meet most of the strength standards but none of the conditioning? Well, I think you know what that means. I selected each performance metric based on the minimum necessary to be competitive at a regional level in the team division. Someone meeting all these standards might be able to sneak into regionals in the individual division at the very bottom of the pack, but that’s not a guarantee.
[google-drive-embed url=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AgiDj3h2P4pUdDV0MHJQSDdKZ1JpNWQ3ckZLajc1QWc&output=html&chrome=false&widget=true” title=”2015 Standards” icon=”https://ssl.gstatic.com/docs/doclist/images/icon_11_spreadsheet_list.png” width=”100%” height=”400″ style=”embed”]
The standards are also based off nothing more than the judgment of a single human being–me. I like to think my judgment is pretty good, but the point is that this document wasn’t written on stone tablets and handed down on Mount Sinai. It was written by a dude, on Google Docs. So while it’s a good tool, don’t go using it to define your self-worth. I’d like for you to use it as a set of goals. If you can hit most of the metrics on this sheet, you’re probably a good competitor. A team of 3 men and 3 women that can meet all of the above standards would certainly go to regionals as a team and would probably make a strong showing. But these are definitely “minimum” standards. Plenty of room exists in our athletes to exceed these, and I expect you to strive for just that.
You’ll also notice an interesting addition to the gymnastic standards–body composition. To be honest, I’m tired of playing Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to nutrition, body composition, and gymnastics. Last off-season I deliberately put on 20 pounds and then cut 13 of it during the pre-season. I know what it feels like to do muscle ups and handstand pushups at 207 pounds, and what it feels like to do them at 194 pounds. Big surprise, 194 pounds is easier. Hell, even double unders were tougher when I was heavier. If you’re not able to meet one of the gymnastic standards, your first thought should be to check the first line (body composition) and ask, “Am I wearing a 5-lb vest of fat that I could take off to make this easier?” I’m not sure if you noticed, but the CrossFit Open is really, really competitive now. The 50% solution of training hard yet not giving a flying fuck what goes in your mouth is no longer a recipe for success. I will personally help anyone that wants to get his/her nutrition in order. I will examine your food logs. I will show you how to Zone. I’ll help you find a block prescription that works for you. I’ll help you figure out where to deviate from Zone during pre/post-workout. I will work my ass off to give you every tool for success. But you have to meet me half-way and care enough to enact the plan and tell me if it’s not working for you.
I’m sorry, guys. I love every one of you. I’m not judging your value as a person based on your body composition. But if you tell me you want to be competitive at CrossFit and do advanced movements like muscle ups, handstand pushups, and chest-to-bar pullups, then I’m going to tell you it’s tough to do those without a minimum level of body composition. I wish reality was different, but it’s not. It’s a motherfucker.
So that’s where we are and where we’re going. We’ll kick things off next week with the hypertrophy cycle. I’m looking forward to an ass-kicking off season. I’ve actually missed the extra volume. In some strange way I’m looking forward to being beat down again. The feeling you have after checking off every line of a long day of training is something that’s difficult to describe, but I’m hungry for it. I hope you are too. -Jeff