Recently, via Wodify, we received an anonymous message regarding our selection of movements at Crossfit Glendora. The message reads exactly as follows, “Although I appreciate the time and effort put into the programming. I would love to see some more “constantly varied” movements to be included in the workouts. For instance, each week we are completing the same movements such as KB [Kettlebell] swings, slam balls, DU’s [Double Unders], lateral step ups and rowing (to name a few) while traditional CF [Crossfit] movements like pull ups, HSPU’s [Hand Stand Push Ups], standard box jumps, and even C & J’s [Clean & Jerks] are rarely seen in the workouts. Thank you.”
Now I do not believe this message to be an attack on Crossfit Glendora and therefore this response will not be written as a counterstrike, and I hope that it is not received as such. I would however like to address each point brought up in the message.
First, we’ll talk about the idea of “constantly varied” movements. For anyone who does not know, Crossfit can be defined (by Crossfit HQ) as “constantly varied, functional movement performed at high intensity.” I am sure that this is where the expectation for constant variance of movements comes from in the anonymous message. This is a fair expectation, and one that Crossfit Glendora seeks to fulfill. Upon first reading the message I broke out my June calendar, which I had used to write out the month’s program. My first thought was to check to see if in fact I had fallen into a rut of programming the same movements over and over. Designing each individual workout to fit into the greater program and have the proper day-to-day flow and progression can be a difficult process, especially when writing four to five weeks at a time within a twelve to twenty week training cycle. I am a human being, more than capable of mistakes, and went back to check my work. I made a list of every movement we performed and divided the list by weeks. Throughout the four weeks of June (Monday, June 30th was not included in this count), a total of 41 different movements were performed, this count includes the pre-metcon strength work. There was an average of 20.5 movements performed each week. No movement was performed more than four times in the four weeks but a few were performed once each week. These movements include the Strict Pull Up, the Kettlebell Swing, the Wall Ball, the Double Under and Running. No movement was performed more than once each week (I make a distinction between Strict and Kipping Pull Ups, which were performed in the same week). When the program was examined on a week-to-week basis (1st to 2nd week, 2nd to 3rd week and 3rd to 4th week) an average of 8.3 movements were repeated, however only 6.66 movements were repeated if strength movements (Back Squats and Strict Pull Ups) are not included in the count. If we take our average of 20.5 movements per week and consider our average of 6.66 movements repeated, this tells us that 32.5% of the movements are repeated. So less than 1/3 of the movements get repeated from week to week. On top of that these movements occur in workouts with a wide variety of structures, time domains and rep schemes. This is what “constantly varied” looks like. The anonymous message mentioned Lateral Step-Ups as a repeated movement. Lateral Step-Ups occur only once in the month of June. Rowing is also mentioned as an excessively repeated movement. Rowing occurs in only 3 out of the 4 weeks, once for varying distances, once for varying times and once in a 3 round workout of 500m at a time. Each time the demand has been conjugated. (If anyone feels that they are being asked to row too often then please ask a coach how you might substitute running or the Airdyne bike for the rower.) Slam balls are not included each week. Kettlebell Swings and Double Unders are traditional Crossfit movements (more traditional Crossfit movements are called for in the anonymous message) and fantastic modes for creating a metabolic demand within the body, so they should be expected in each week of the program. The anonymous message allows that more than just the movements they mentioned could possibly be included each week. From my examination I found that Running, Wall Balls and Pull Ups are also included each week. Running is a fundamental human movement, among the most “functional”, and should be included in any and every program designed to increase General Physical Preparedness. Wall Balls are a relatively safe movement that creates a high metabolic demand on the body and thus produce a great conditioning effect, as well as improve accuracy and balance. Pull Ups are included each week as a strength movement and we will go into greater detail about them in the coming paragraphs.
Now, to elaborate more on why certain traditional Crossfit movements are not included in the manner that some might expect. The first traditional Crossfit movement inquired about in the anonymous message is the Pull Up. Without any other context I can only infer that they are asking about why more Kipping Pull Ups are not included in the metcons. This is a matter of where Crossfit Glendora is within the current training cycle, what our goals for this cycle are and some new information we have come across. We are constantly trying to improve our program and “step our game up”. Any program that is not getting better is probably getting worse. I’ve answered a lot of questions about why we don’t do certain things any more with the reply, “because we got smarter than that.” Reading and listening to everything I can get my hands on has given me some new perspective on the Kipping Pull Up. More specifically about the physics at play and stresses placed on the unprepared connective tissues in the Glenohumeral (shoulder) joint when high volume Kipping Pull Up workouts are done. Now before you get concerned, Kipping Pull Up workouts are NOT a thing of the past! However, we do have some work to do before we start doing them on a more regular basis. A goal for this training cycle has been to prepare everyone’s shoulders for Kipping Pull Ups. Our first step in strengthening the connective tissue of the shoulder (to include tendons, ligaments and cartilage) was to insert the Strict Pull Up into our strength program. The slower, controlled and more deliberate nature of the Strict Pull Up made it the perfect mode to condition the connective tissue of the shoulder. So to answer the anonymous message on the issue of Pull Ups in metcons (again, what I have assumed to be their question), we having been taking a training cycle off from Pull Up metcons to strengthen the muscles, connective tissue and movement patterns involved with trying to perform Kipping Pull Ups in a timed environment.
To address Hand Stand Push Ups. First of all Handstand Push Ups are not missing. They are regularly included as part of our Thursday gymnastic skill work and are included as the Rx+ scale-up every so often. Relative to the 2014 Crossfit Games Regional competition it would appear that Crossfit Glendora does not do Handstand Push Ups or Handstand work very often. This is an extremely poor comparison to make when the goals of the two parties are considered. Crossfit HQ is attempting to select those who will participate in a search to determine the fittest individuals on the planet. Crossfit Glendora is training our members to increase their level of General Physical Preparedness, increase work capacity and develop the 10 General Physical Skills. Therefore, the workouts that each group prescribes will look quite different. I believe that using HSPUs as a scale up in a metcon provides the right balance of efficacy and safety. I do not think that having someone who cannot perform an Rx Handstand Push Up do incline Push Ups with their feet on the GHD pads for time is a wise decision. It’s well understood that being in a fatigued state increases the risk of injury. In a fatigued state the incline Push Up w/ feet on GHD pads produces excessive and unsafe protraction of the scapula (shoulder blades) and hyperextension of the lumbar spine. It must be noted that strengthening the Handstand Push Up movement pattern by doing incline Push Ups with the feet on the GHD pads in a non-fatigued state, and maintaining proper form during a gymnastic skill session is an excellent method for progressing towards the Rx Handstand Push up. So typically if Handstand Push Ups will be included, the Rx workout will prescribe Hand Release Push Ups, and the Rx+ will prescribe Handstand Push Ups.
I am not exactly sure what is meant when the anonymous message mentions “standard Box Jumps”. There is nothing “non-standard” about stepping down from a plyo-box. In many sports-performance training facilities the “standard” Box Jump is performed by stepping down off the box (unless the athlete is specifically performing Depth Jumps or Depth Drops, in which case the very nature of the movement is to jump off of the box). It is typical in Crossfit, and especially Crossfit competitions, to see athletes jumping off the plyo-box and rebounding right back up into their next rep. This is an extremely high-risk practice that can be devastating to the Achilles tendon. It would irresponsible on the part of the coaching staff to recommend that those not pursuing Crossfit competition engage in this practice. An improper rebound may rupture the Achilles tendon, requiring a major surgery to repair, or result in falling short of jumping onto the box and those around the athlete will soon be getting a good look at the front of their tibia (hitting a shin on the edge of a plyo-box can have disastrous effects on the skin and bones of the lower leg). If someone is interested in competing in Crossfit, it will be necessary to learn to rebound off of the ground during Box Jumps. The proper time to include this practice is a month or two out from competition followed by cessation from rebounding after the competition. To train year round by jumping off the box would just as ridiculous as football players scrimmaging in full pads and conducting full contact practices year round, bodies would not last.
I will wrap this up with an explanation of why Clean & Jerks are rarely seen in conditioning workouts (I assume this is also an inquiry as to why this movement is not showing up in metcons since we in fact do work on Clean & Jerks as part of our Skill/Strength work). The Clean & Jerk is the second of the two highly technical Olympic weightlifting movements. Due to it’s highly technical nature the Clean & Jerk is prone to error. I’ve coached many metcons with Clean & Jerks involved. The main problem that I have observed throughout all of them is the lowering of the barbell from overhead back to the floor in preparation for the next repetition. I typically see a falling barbell yank the connected body back down to Earth with it. In the fatigued state brought on during metcons, it is difficult for most athletes to maintain safe and proper form while performing Clean & Jerks. Now, a few more points must be made about the topic. First, Crossfit Glendora is very interested in teaching the Clean & Jerk. Every other Monday we work on the skills and strength associated with it’s performance. However, we do not believe that the better method for teaching the Clean & Jerk is just to perform Clean & Jerks over and over. Instead, we prefer to break the Clean and Jerk down into it’s essential pieces. As of late, we have been working the Clean from two different “Hang” positions: the Mid-Hang and the Hang. From there we will work our way down to the floor and add the Jerk is in as well. To work on the Jerk we have been doing Push Presses every other Wednesday to strengthen the shoulders and work on the “dip and drive” movement pattern. From there we will begin to do Jerks from the rack. As the training cycle progresses we will put the pieces together and ideally set some new Clean & Jerk Personal Records (PRs). Although we do not believe that it is a good idea to include the exact Clean & Jerk in metcons it is still important to include the movement patterns. A dynamic pull from the floor followed by a dynamic overhead push (which is essentially what the Clean & Jerk is) is better utilized when we perform all of our Power Cleans followed by all of our Shoulder-to-Overheads separately in workouts, rather than back and forth. Finally, to address the competitor concerned about Clean & Jerks inevitably coming up in competition workouts. Yes, Clean & Jerks for time and reps will, without a doubt, appear in competitions and must be prepared for. The answer is similar to that of rebounding Box Jumps. It is a skill that needs to be trained for quality of movement and load throughout the year, and tailored to meet the specific needs of competition during “pre-season” training. I have accounted for this in my planning of the Regionals Bound training macro-cycle (the cycle that divides up the whole year’s training). Our pre-season training will include Skill/Strength work to train the competitor to “rep out” Clean & Jerks for time in an efficient manner.
I feel that I must apologize for the length of this response. I wanted to make sure that I addressed every single issue that you brought up in your message. Please reply and let us know if this answered your questions. If not I would more than happy to further elaborate on any explanations that were not satisfactory. In the future, please feel free to contact us with any new questions that come to mind. I am here to answer them all however, in person or at least identified would be the more desirable approach. Take care and we look forward to training with you soon.
On behalf of Crossfit Glendora,