Programming for the People pt. 3

It’s good to have something to shoot for.  If you wanna lose some weight… awesome! If you want to do a pullup… fantastic!  If you just want to come in and workout three times a week consistently… that’s great!

However, if you feel like you don’t really know why you’re doing what you’re doing… congratulations!  I have a deal for you….

You’re training for the 2019 CrossFit Open in October. Whether you realized it or not, you’ve been training for it since March.  

Even if you don’t want to do the Open, that’s totally fine, but you’re gonna be training for it.  I’m infinitely confident that our training will also help you towards general goals like weightloss and/or strength gains as well.  But from a programming perspective, it’s much more efficient to be working towards something. For us, that something is the CrossFit Open.  So let’s get into what that is going to look like...


I didn’t realize that in past discussions of programming I never went into the nitty gritty of what the programming looks like.  We talked quarterly overview and also individual stimulus, but what does that look like when it push comes to shove?  I try my best to achieve two things:

  1. Keep it interesting/varied for general population.

  2. Pack all the skills needed into only a few days.

So in trying our best to satisfy those conditions, we split the weekdays into 5 types of days each with two parts.  Those two parts usually consist of a strength/skill and a conditioning element. What pairs with what usually comes down to time and space considerations.  

In order to keep those days varied and interesting we simply change what day starts the week.  So it basically looks like this…

Screen Shot 2019-06-27 at 2.28.48 PM.png

This is not revolutionary stuff by any stretch but manages to satisfy both conditions as well as possible.  So without further ado, here are the 5 types of days to expect over the next 3 months.


Day 1: Olympic Lifting & <12 minute Open-Style WOD

The olympic lifts are pretty critical elements of the open.  Some variation of both the Clean and Snatch have been done every year.  So it’s certainly worth the time investment to practice and improve them.  Unlike training for olympic lifting in and of itself, CrossFit’s olympic lifts are usually used under fatigue.  So we’ll be practicing with relatively short rest periods and moderate to heavy loads.

After looking over the past 8 years of Open WODs, the mean total time is about 12 minutes.  So we’ve split up practicing Open-Style WODs into shorter and greater than 12 minutes. That doesn’t mean we’ll be doing nothing but Open WODs but we’ve looked through the past and tried to re-create certain “characteristics” that seem to pop up regularly. 

Day 2: Squats & Lower Body Accessory WOD

In terms of bang for your buck movements, basically nothing tops the squat.  No matter the time of the year or goal intended, you can pretty much guarantee that squats will be there.  Specifically this year though we’re going to be doing some very high volume squats to stimulate more of a muscular endurance response.  We’ll be spending the first half of the strength part working on max strength, but the latter portion will be high rep (10+ reps) and short rest.

Lower Body Accessory days are a bit of a compromise WOD. These are the days where we can work in some necessary but not sexy movements.  If we’re being completely transparent, Lower Body accessory days shouldn’t even have a clock. The time it takes you to finish is third on the list of important things to consider.  These should all be heavy grinding workouts where we’re working on getting stronger; hence why you’ll often see percentages instead of weights. Grinder harder on these workouts and forget the time.

Day 3: Upper Body & Upper Body Accessory WODs

For Upper Body strength days we’ll be alternating between three movements: Bench Press, Pullups, and Push Press.  Similar to the squats above, we’ll be alternating here between max strength and volume towards building more muscular endurance.  

Upper Body Accessory is, unsurprisingly, the same concept as Lower Body Accessory days.  There are various movements that just require lots of volume to improve. The goal is to build strength in a CrossFit setting with high fatigue and relatively high volume.  These WODs are designed to be grinds.  You really shouldn’t even be that out of breath, instead you should be pushing the level of volume and weight you can manage as fatigue builds.  In strength and conditioning parlance, these are “dense” workouts. For the lay person, it’s sweaty weightlifting with some heavy breathing.

Day 4: Olympic Lifting & >12 minute Open-Style WODs

There’s really no point in repeating this too much from the above.  It’s basically the other parts of Day 1. If we Snatched on Day 1 we’re gonna Clean on Day 4.   Nothing too crazy here.

Again, no need to repeat the above.  I’ll be writing a longer piece on the “types” of Open WODs that we’ll be practicing but just know that during the week half your WOD’s will be longer than 12 minutes and half will be less than 12 minutes.

Day 5: Skills Volume & Aerobic Conditioning

Day 5 we’ll be taking a little bit of a detour from our normal breakdown.  Instead of Aerobic Conditioning + Short Metcon we’ll be doing a Skill practice/volume and aerobic intervals.  For the skill practice section we’ll be doing one of two options:

Option 1.) Working on Drills to acquire the skill

Option 2.) Working on the skill to improve capacity.

Many open WOD’s rely not just on doing a skill but being able to do it repeatedly and relatively effortlessly.  This is why over the last week we tested some “max unbroken” skills (like Double Unders, HSPUs, Muscle Ups, TTB, etc).  We want to use some % of that unbroken skill set and work on building capacity so you can do more with less effort.  

If you don’t have certain skills at all, we’ll be using this time to try our best to get it.  However, if you want to get better at doing the skill you’ll need to practice a little bit more than the once every 2 or 3 weeks we’ll be working it into the programming.  Stay tuned for more on how we plan on addressing that!

It’s no secret that despite CrossFit pretending the Open tests “balance;” it’s obvious to everyone it’s heavily aerobically biased.  Even the more difficult weightlifting movements are less a test of strength and more a test of how much volume can you handle. And most people have abandoned the idea that all you need to do is improve your 1RM to improve your capacity at lighter weights*.  Of course having a big 1RM is helpful, but once you reach a certain point the returns drop off severely.  Instead, you need to practice competence at the movement under fatiguing conditions while maintaining high intensity.  That’s the goal of our 

In closing

If I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure how long the CrossFit Open in its current format will continue.  But while we have it we’d be foolish not to take advantage of it. And for all the downsides that come with the Open, it’s unequal in its ability to push people to achieve something in relatively short order.  

While we have it, we really want everyone who doesn’t have a goal to use the Open as a chance to accomplish something you thought impossible only a few months ago.  

So if you don’t have a goal, you do now ;)

Andrew Killion