When we established CFC many years ago, when CrossFit was still an underground movement and there only a couple hundred affiliates, we knew we wanted to establish the gym as a true strength and conditioning gym. We would always have hands on a barbell and then follow up the strength work with some form of metabolic conditioning work (MetCon). We wanted to employ processes that worked (linear progression – sets across, dynamic efforts and maximal efforts) through the years of coaching and education we’d accumulated. In other words, we weren’t making this shit up on the fly and doing stupid pet tricks or trying to make utterly destructive “go till you puke and your hands bleed and you need shoulder surgery” workouts that is the unfortunate case with the vast majority of CrossFit gyms out there. There are a few that know what they are doing, and there are a lot more that don’t – hence the reason CrossFit develops a bad reputation and the brand as a whole suffers. A large number of coaches don’t understand anatomy/physiology, exercise science, or programming concepts. As strength & conditioning coaches, we also feel we need to get our current clients up to speed on what we do, and why. To that end, I’ve cut & pasted an updated version of the CrossFit Centurion Program from our CFC Coaches Manual so all of you can see the idea, understand the concepts, and move forward in confidence as you trust the process!
CrossFit Centurion Programming – 2017
In order to maximize the gains of our athletes and avoid injury through overuse and poor programming, I derived a very successful and functional strength and conditioning template several years ago. It was based upon a linear progression of strength work and a varying degree of intensity over all three metabolic pathways (Phosphative, Glycolytic, Oxidative) in the conditioning workouts. It was also designed around the premise that we are not a CrossFit gym focused solely on competitive events. Instead, we designed our program with the everyday person in mind who would most likely be coming in on a fairly regular M/W/F schedule with a couple other days thrown in around those. We knew those people weren’t interested in going to the CrossFit Games, they just wanted to be challenged, be fitter, faster, stronger, healthier, and look better naked. End of story.
As is the case with any CrossFit gym, people come in and want to go hard and push themselves to extremes as if they were going to be a CrossFit Games competitor. That leads to overuse and straying from a program that’s been laid out already and winging it, usually resulting in injury or complete burnout from the training and lack of recovery. Those same people, about 1% in all reality, don’t get the big picture and start to complain about how workouts aren’t hard enough, they need more time/weight, etc. and things start to get changed just for them, forsaking the other 99% of clients who think things are plenty hard and understand the process. In fact, they trust and believe in the process!
People are quickly influenced by others, let ego get in the way, and begin to question the process without an understanding of it and it’s potential, if followed.
Lately we are seeing the same issues arise, where people think the workouts aren’t hard enough and want to do more and/or change things so a couple people in the class can feel “challenged”. This comes at the expense of their bodies and the other people in the class who are there for what is programmed because their bodies want the days WOD. To top it off, the majority of those who complain don’t take part in competitive events and end up fighting nagging injuries and fatigue, then get bored and do something else, essentially being a waste of time and coaching.
There isn’t a single workout I’ve programmed in 12 years of S&C coaching that I cannot make more difficult without changing it and the desired effect of why I programmed it on a specific day. Changing things out of the blue to “whatever” often end up compromising the athlete’s body due to the workouts that they’ve done, or the workouts that are coming up, their lack of recovery, and pre-existing injuries.
To accommodate those who wanted more intensity, we created “advanced” programming. This worked great for a while then people started to say some of those workouts were too hard, so they quit doing them, only to jump into some stupid online program that was “harder” where they end up doing ridiculous volume and intensity and getting injured, or never competing in anything besides bagging groceries, or found themselves still getting their ass handed to them on the CFC floor by a person who followed the CFC programming since day one!
I get that people want to be pushed, and we can do that intelligently. Since I know what we’ve done and what we are going to do, I can program RX and Advanced workouts that give the body a break in the action insofar as intensity and/or specific muscle groups being overworked. If that still isn’t enough, I can take an advanced workout and make it silly hard, yet still retain the original concept in programming behind it as it fits into my template.
Make no mistake about it, this gym belongs to Allison and I, and the programming at CFC is the programming at CFC. It works, there is no need for stupid pet tricks or beat down workouts, and trusting the process will equal success and a reduced chance of injury. If this doesn’t work for someone, then they are free to find another gym where it’s just a random shotgun shitshow and the coaching and knowledge base doesn’t exist or is completely inept. There are plenty of those gyms out there and plenty more people done with CrossFit thanks to those gyms.
So allow me to explain the process. If you are a CFC client, a potential CFC client, a coach, or a person who geeks out on this stuff, you should take the time to read through this and wrap your head around the concept of our programming.
Several years ago, I made the effort to derive a template for developing strength as well as work capacity in the client athletes at CFC. What I came up with was a program in which clients would have their hands on a barbell almost every day of the week. The program was designed to increase the intensity of the lifts through the course of the 4 week program, as well as the demands of the time of the conditioning program that would follow each session. The program would retain the Oly lifts one to two days per week on an alternating cycle. The final week of the month would be a week of application of the barbell work and an increase in required work capacity through longer time domains on the MetCon portions.
Once the 4th week was completed, the cycle would start over again thereby allowing the clients to recover and adapt to the work stress that was placed upon them over the previous four weeks.
Although CrossFit does not specialize or periodize, I felt it would be appropriate to run this program in 4 three-Month Phases (Macrocycles) where small tweaks from phase to phase would be implemented to keep the program fresh.
The Mesocycles would be four weeks in length and would include a build-up of lifting intensity and required work capacity. The fourth week would be a week of “application” where the barbell and skill work would be integrated into longer workouts to put their skills to use, albeit at higher volume/lower intensity level in weight being moved.
The Microcycle would be 1 week in length and would include three basic lifts, two Olympic Weightlifting days, and one straightforward, mixed modality CrossFit workout or Hero WOD. The time domains through the week would increase slightly, with a longer workout being done on Saturday. The day off on Sunday would allow the athlete to recover and get ready for the next week’s efforts.
- Microcycle – 1 Week
- M/W/F – Squat/Press/Deadlift & MetCon
- Tuesday – Olympic Weightlifting & MetCon
- Thursday – Olympic Weightlifting Skill work & MetCon
- Saturday – CrossFit, mixed modality MetCon workout
- Mesocycle – 4 weeks
- Baseline / Recovery week
- Two weeks of increased intensity
- Application and stress Week
- Macrocycle – 12 Weeks
- Each Macrocycle will be separated into 4 phases over the course of a calendar year.
- Phase 1 – January, February, March (Testing)
- Phase 2- April, May, June
- Phase 3 – July, August, September (Testing)
- Phase 4 – October, November, December
- Each Macrocycle will be separated into 4 phases over the course of a calendar year.
The Microcycle and Mesocycle Breakdown
The goal of this program was to create a true “strength & conditioning” program that would ramp up in regards to weight lifted and time domains of the workouts over the course of the month. Each week would see an increase in stress in both areas before culminating with a week of application and high stress. Once the fourth week was over and the Mesocycle started over, the stress in the strength efforts would decrease again allowing the athlete to recover and then ramp back up. This will create the “stress/ recovery/adaptation” process to increase the health and athletic capabilities of each athlete.
Week 1 – Baseline / Recovery Week
This week will be the beginning of the phase(s) and/or a recovery week. In this week, the athlete will be tasked with Low Volume/High Intensity barbell work on M/W/F. The barbell work will be short in duration, 3 sets of 3 reps (3×3), starting at 85% 1RM. The total time for the barbell work should be kept at 10 minutes or less.
Tuesday will be an Olympic Weightlifting day. The lifts will alternate between the Clean and Snatch from week to week. Sets would be run as doubles with approximately 2 minutes rest between efforts in our “clinic format”. Dependent upon the issues seen in the Oly lifts, we would make small controlled increases (either volume or intensity) or would pick specific skill work or complexes to work out problem areas each week.
Thursday will be a day to work on Olympic Weightlifting skills. This is a toned down version of Tuesday’s and focuses more on developing the proper movement patterns and skills necessary to properly execute the Oly lifts and take part in the Tuesday classes. It is also a great day for working on ancillary strength work and/or specific Oly lifting skills to fix issues. The lift usually is the opposite of the Tuesday sessions Oly program.
Saturday will be a standard mixed modality, CrossFit based workout.
Each day’s MetCon (Metabolic Conditioning) workouts for the first week will be short in duration, high in power output. All of the workouts will be short in length. This will aid to ramp people up at the start of the month and in the case of subsequent cycles, will serve as a re-building process for the athletes. Most of the workouts during this first week will be done as time priority (AMRAP’s).
Saturday’s WOD will be slightly longer in length than the rest of the week. This will prepare the athletes for the increased time demands of the following week by putting some small stress on them, then allowing then to adapt and recover prior to the next week.
Week 2 – Increased Stress and Demand
M/W/F barbell work will again be 3×3 with a slight increase for sets across. Hip and knee driven movements can sustain 5-10 Lbs. max increases while press based movement are good for only 2.5-5 Lbs. max increases.
Tuesday will be the alternate Oly lift at a slightly higher weight. Thursday will again be the counterpart lift to Tuesday and focus on basics and technique work.
Saturday will be a mixed modality, CrossFit based workout.
Time domains will increase this week. All MetCon workouts will now be 12-15 Minutes in length.
Saturday’s workout will be approximately 15-20 minutes in length as a final stressor and in preparation of the increased demands of week 3.
Week 3 – Maximal Effort and Increased Work Capacity
In this Microcycle, the athletes will again be presented with a M/W/F barbell schedule, however, this week they will be given only 10 minutes to find a 3RM lift in the respective lift of the day. This will force the athlete to push themselves a bit more than a slight increase would and force them into a higher state of physical stress. It would not be uncommon to see athletes make the jump into the 90% 1RM for their lifts on these days.
Tuesday will revert back to the Olympic lifts. The weight can be moved up, or in the case of problem solving, it can be maintained at the previous week’s weight and the focus being on fixing faults at less volume/intensity.
Thursday remains another Olympic lifting day, alternating back to the movement from the first week.
Saturday will be mixed modality, CrossFit based workouts, increased in time duration. This longer time domain will prep the athlete for the long week that is to come.
The time domains for the MetCon workouts in this week will be 15-20 minutes in length. There may be some AMRAP & EMOM based workouts in this week, however, task priority workouts can easily be integrated back into this week so long as the time duration is in line with the prescribed time domains for the week.
Week 4 – Application / Forced Stress
This week brings the three previous week’s work to bear. During this week, there will be no specific barbell work on M/W/F, instead the entire week will consist of mixed Modality CrossFit based workouts with the barbell components integrated into the workout as best as possible (i.e., front squats as part of the MetCon programming). All of the workouts in this week will be long – all about 20-20+ minutes in length. The workouts this week will be task priority (for time) workouts instead of time priority (AMRAP) and some longer EMOM workouts to allow athletes to push hard, recover, and repeat the process for a longer period than a normal AMRAP or task priority workout would allow.
This will allow the client to apply the skills and strength garnered over the previous weeks to their workouts. It will also keep the client fresh and interested in the program due to the change in format.
Tuesday will be a Olympic weightlifting day with a slight increase and/or a day of Heavy Singles. The WOD time on this day will be kept short.
Thursday will remain as an Oly lifting day. The workout on this day will be no more than 15 minutes in length and will most likely be toned down somewhat in response to what the other days of the week have been/will be.
Saturday will be a mixed modality, CrossFit workout. This one will be 20 minutes or more in length to provide the maximal amount of stress to the athlete at the end of the Mesocycle, which will allow them to recover and adapt prior to the next Mesocycle starting at week 5/9. This is a good day for Hero WOD’s and benchmark workouts to be tackled.
Week 5 & 9 – Rebuilding/Recovery Week
These weeks at the beginning of the new Mesocycle will allow the athlete to “reset” by lowering the time domain of the workouts and starting up again on the barbell based work after a week of application and stress.
The barbell work should start out a slight bit higher than it was in Week 2, not week 3. This will allow the athlete to increase forward again after the adaptation of the heavy triple, but without overloading them at the higher percentage of week 3. If done correctly, the athlete will still make steady progress forward each cycle. (Note: In week 9, the athlete would reset their barbell loading to slightly above that of week 6, not week 7, so on and so forth for the continuing phases).
The third week of the cycle will again be punctuated by a “heavy triple” in 10 minutes to force the stress and intensity of the lifts.
Again, the increasing time domains throughout the cycle will help build on the work capacity of the athlete as they actively recover throughout the early part of the new cycle.
Once the last week of the cycle rolls around, the client athlete will be taxed again for a week of application and increased work demands.
If during the long course of the program the athlete’s start to stall out on their lifts, alternate loading patterns and intensity can be instituted to get them started back up again. Slight modifications to the program will most likely happen as it moves forward. New movements may be added in place of others from time to time, or the movements may be moved to other days of the week, yet the basis of strength building movements will remain in place.
Summing it up
This progressive and repeated program will allow a client to continually improve and be exposed to all movement, regardless of when they come into the program, and give them plenty of opportunity to be exposed to all of the variable of a strength & conditioning program. The program is based upon what has been done and what will be done and takes into account intensity and stress levels and the need for recovery and adaptation. As such, athletes who follow it and stay focused will follow a path of linear progression in their strength and conditioning levels, yet avoid injurie due to overuse and/or mental or physical burnout.
If at any time, “Advanced” programming is not hard enough, small tweaks can be made to it to make it plenty hard. For example, if sit ups are too easy, do Toes to Bar. If Push Ups or ring dips are too simple, you can do bench press or muscle ups into ring dips for prescribed reps. You could add a weight vest, add another round, go faster, whatever, the possibilities are endless to make the workout harder, yet not disturb the impetus of the day’s conceptual programming.
In the end, the athlete will be responsible for their exposure and participation in the program as much as possible to make sure they are well rounded and have an understanding of the various weightlifting movements and the importance of those movements in their health and fitness. The litmus test will be the semi-annual skills testing, which so far has yielded PR’s and consistent gains again, as well as more well-rounded athleticism and ability.
A well thought out and successful strength and conditioning program like this will yield results that help accentuate the strong reputation of CrossFit Centurion, it’s coaching and its athletes!