CrossFit Programming

This topic is so widely discussed and such a sore topic for some people who have been in the strength and conditioning world for a while.  I have not studied strength and conditioning, I do not have a degree in strength and conditioning.  Everything I type in here will either be pulled from CrossFit’s methodology in their level 1 & 2 course materials, and also from my own personal experiments.

First we need to understand why CrossFit’s methodology is so bullied.  It is because there is no such thing as periodization or percentages within CrossFit programming.  CrossFit believes in “CVFMHI”, or Constantly Varied Functional Movement performed at High Intensity.  CrossFit also claims and believe its method is perfect for “Increasing Work Capacity across Broad Times and Modal Domains”.  Lets break it down quickly.  “CV” means the workouts and movements change day to day, week to week.  “FM” means the bulk of the movements are functional for life, push-pull, squatting, deadlifting, bodyweight, etc.  “HI”  performed at High Intensity meaning these basic movements are performed faster to build that work capacity.  Constantly Varied also means you not only vary the movements, but the time performed, the reps, the weight, the days, the combinations you can put them in.  To most this seems random and would never make people stronger.  From things I have read and knowing a little bit about muscle memory, if I am constantly doing the same movement, my body will eventual adapt.  If I am constantly confusing my muscles or performing other movements, my body eventually will have to get stronger to perform whatever I throw at it.
I am not negating or disproving that following a periodized strength program or lifting program will not make you stronger.  However CrossFit is deemed for being a GPP program, not a specific.  So in order to do well at CrossFit you must have a strong general physical preparedness.  This is where I feel everyone now goes nuts.  I have heard if you only back squat once and don’t do it again for 3 weeks, people won’t get better at the squat.  I disagree completely with that.  Warm ups, WODS, and post workouts should always address weaknesses and motor control.

What I mean is if Monday we Back Squat for a 3RM, the next couple of weeks, there will still be a air squat in a warmup, or a goblet squat, or front squat in a workout, I am still drilling the mechanics of a squat constantly although I may not program another “Squat Only” day for 3 weeks.  You can fight me all you want, I truly believe in CrossFit’s CVFMHI method.  I tested it with myself, and then I tested it with the gym I worked at previously.  I increased my clean by 30# only cleaning twice in 6 weeks, and everyone in our gym PR’d their back squats only squatting about 4-5 times in 8 weeks.
(if you’d like to see my programming you can comment below and I will be glad to show you)
I however did use warmups and post workouts to address my, and the gyms weakness.  Yes we ran a lot, and yes there were days devoted to lifting heavy only, and only practicing a gymnastics skill.  Most of our workouts were short an intense.  I included some long ones, and a couple Hero and Benchmark workouts.
End Result, everyone got fitter in the GPP realm.

I am currently studying for my level 2, yes I know there is no test, but I like to delve into information so I go ahead of time knowing what they will talk about.  As any good coach should do, you should constantly be testing what you know, and constantly adapting or changing and experimenting.  I am not the best coach, and I doubt I will ever find the day where I say I am.  However I am thirsty for knowledge and will read anything and everything, and if I don’t agree, I will test it and try it.  So I will say I am one of the hardest working coaches out there trying to get better everyday and bring that to my members.

Below is information I found amazing in the Level 2:

-Programming requires reviewing what has been completed recently in an attempt to provide a new variance

– Although CrossFit programming appears random to some due to its non-linear and non-formulaic pattern, its variety is a result of a planned attempt top address all fitness tests.  This does not happen by luck of the draw

– A programmer cannot be fooled into believing the simplicity of the movements and combinations equates to “simple” results.  Complexity does NOT inherently produce greater efficiency or efficacy and arguably detracts from  both.

– The bulk of workouts, however, should strive for simple, bold pairings.

-For beginner and/or deconditioned individuals, a trainer needs to be PRIMARILY concerned with their adherence to the proper points of performance of the movements throughout the FULL range of motion.  Increasing the difficulty (via movements or volume) and/or pushing for greater intensity (via speed or load) are SECONDARY to developing movement proficiency and new skill development.

-It can be easy for newer programmers to believe “complicated” and “unique” programming provides a superior stimulus because of the novelty.

-Be impressed by intensity, not volume – Greg Glassman

– While people sometimes characterize CrossFit by the sweaty metabolic-conditioning workouts (“met-cons”), this is a limited view.  Days devoted to strength training are an essential variant of CrossFit and are also “CrossFit” workouts.

There is a lot more great information within the Level 2 training guide, I highly recommend becoming familiar with it.  It has made me understand CrossFit more as a trainer and athlete.


Hold The Standard

Hold the Standard.

I saw this phrase when I was out in California for the CrossFit Games in July.
We had visited Deuce Gym in Venice Beach to stop by and meet their community. Immediately I was impressed with how the members were listening to the coaches, how friendly everyone was, and how much knowledge the coach was demonstrating. He was relentless in what he was looking for in his members. We watched the class for a couple minutes. We met some of the other coaches, and actually Nate Helming was there and Carl Paoli had visited it earlier.
I thought to myself, why were there so many big names from the CrossFit world visiting this gym? why did such a small space have so many members?
After talking to one of the coaches Emily, she dropped some knowledge on what they do during foundations, how they teach hip extension with stones. What struck me the most from what she was saying was how much passion she had when she said it. You could see that all the coaches cared about their members, and cared about how they moved. We chatted a bit more and we bough shirts. On the back of their shirts it says, “Hold the Standard”
That struck with me. Actually struck deep inside on more levels than just CrossFit.

We live in a world where Standards have been watered down. What was not acceptable years ago, is now widely accepted. We have over saturated the market with so many different ways to do things, or accomplish a task, that standards have been less and less. You’ve heard, “Fake it till you make it”, “At all costs”, etc.
I’m not going to dive into the realm of morals, politics, etc because thats not what this blog is about, nor do I care to.
I am going to apply this to CrossFit.

CrossFit has experienced major growth in the last couple of years. CrossFit has become a trendy topic for haters. There is reason to it though. CrossFit might disagree with my viewpoint, but as a consumer, and now a part of this ever growing community, and as a Coach, I see things from a different view. Over-saturation of CrossFit gyms. Now I am stating my opinion, but being an independent contractor by trade, and by being in the field of customer service, and customer relations, I can see when someone is driven by genuine interest, or driven by money.
Let’s be honest. The start up for CrossFit is not big at all. $4,000 dollars and you are qualified and able to open an Affiliate. That is a blessing and a curse in my opinion. There are those who have had their lives changed by CrossFit, and feel so passionately about it, they can’t think of doing anything but helping people like CrossFit has helped them. To them that $4,000 might not come easy but it is so worth it. Then there are those who think, well $4,000 dollars (L1 + Affiliate Fee) and see it as a great way to make some money.
That is where the problem lies. Money is a necessity to live in this world, but it is not everything. Happiness is everything.
I made a lot of money at my previous job. I mean A LOT for a 23 year old hairdresser. I also worked 50+ hours a week, had no time for anything, and constantly ate and drank my emotions away. I was not happy. In fact I was miserable, but I had a lot of money.
Obviously I left and yes, at times I wish I still had that money, but I realized the benefits of not being tied down to a job that demands so much of me. Trading time for dollars.
I’ve deviated off topic…I usually do.
So where does “Hold the Standard” come in?

(Enter Rant)

With the tremendous increase in CrossFit affiliates, the realist in me notices how many gyms are opening up with little experience, and I feel everyone wants to make a quick buck. Now I’m not going to get into a debate that it can not be done. However, I am a hairdresser. How would you feel if the person responsible for how you look has had no training other than beauty school and hasn’t been mentored by someone in the business. Nervous, correct? Would you have complete trust that it would come out great. If you said Yes, sorry I don’t believe you.
Why not more so with your health and well being? Too many videos on Instagram or Facebook are making their way to Drywall, or other sites that make fun of CrossFit.
What ever happened to the CrossFit Journal Article Coach Glassman wrote on Virtuosity, about mastering the basics. Why are brand new gyms, some with no mentoring offering internships, when at most all they have taken is a Level 1. What can you offer to the new person who took their Level 1?
As a coach are you relentless in your pursuit of knowledge? Have you worked with coaches who are established? Are you constantly learning? Not only at CrossFit certs, but other certs? Are you reaching out to people in the industry?
Everyone wants to teach the snatch right away. Teach your members how to fully extend their hips.
I see so many half squats with load on IG. Squat Therapy? Have you drilled mechanics and consistency into your member? If not, why are they squatting with load?

I am not telling you on how to run your gym, but when I tell you gyms that “Hold the Standard” we stand out because we are relentless in making our members better. We are relentless in what Greg Glassman believed in. “If you insist on basics, really insist on them, your clients will immediately recognize that you are a master trainer. ” Too many gyms have strayed away from that I feel.
Quoting Glassman again “This rush to advancement increases the chance of injury, delays advancement and progress, and blunts the client’s rate of return on his efforts. In short, it retards his fitness. ”

So I challenge all gyms out there. Hold the Standard. If you don’t Drywall will troll you, and so will I.

-Miguel Cardia

References: CrossFit Journal – Virtuosity

Group Fitness

I usually start with a long introduction, and I take a long time to get to my point.  Today I will not.

I can not, and do not understand why people open a CrossFit gym and offer everything else but CrossFit!!!
You either got into business to change lives using CrossFit because it somehow in one way changed yours.  Or you opened it because you needed another hobby, or wanted to make money because there are so many other successful affiliates around, you figured why not.  It was another business venture.

Here’s what I find disturbing.  Scrolling through my news feed, I stumbled across a couple gyms that I follow and started to then check out other gyms Facebook Pages and their websites.  I saw HIIT, Intense fitness classes, Group Training, Yoga, Classes that don’t involve barbells, Gymnastics and Cardio Classes…I will stop there.

If you opened up a gym……..SELL WHAT YOU OPENED THE GYM UP FOR!!!; CrossFit,…. NOT zumba, Rock Climbing, Book Club, Knitting Corners, Pet Adoption, Spin Classes, Airdyne Meditation, or whatever else you people can think of!!!

People are quick to open an affiliate and then offer every program under the sun to attract members.  Stop diluting what CrossFit is!!
-Oh Miguel you’re such a bitter person, a buzzkill, hater, (insert mean words here)

Here’s my point of view, if you don’t agree with it go make a paleo smoothie and curse my name under your breath.

CrossFit is what it is today because of its Methodology.  It is ridiculed, scrutinized, trolled in the media.  Why? Because its been so successful at making people fitter, and doing it fast.  It has pushed boundaries people were scared to push, it has awaken the inner athlete in many people.  CrossFit has done a whole lot good, the community and HQ as well.  However I feel it is entering this new era where people will own CrossFit gyms like they own an iPhone.  Everyone and their mother has one, but eventually get bored of it and trade it in for something else.  I hope thats not where it goes, but lately there are so many affiliates rising up.
That is a good thing, believe me.  It is a good thing because the more people shopping for CrossFit the better.  It will help the affiliate owners and coaches who breathe, eat, sleep, and labor continuously over programming and how to make their gym better, successful.
Here is what scares me or perturbs me.
If you own a gym or opened an affiliate, and offer a “Lite” class, or a class with no barbells, or a cardio class, you no longer are a CrossFit Gym!  You are licensed to use the affiliate but you are essentially coddling and allowing CrossFit to look cowardly and be like “we know its intense and people don’t like the barbell, or want to lift heavy”  THEN DONT DO CROSSFIT!!!!!!!

CrossFit is based on mono structural, gymnastics, and WEIGHTLIFTING!  If you do not want to program those, you are not programming CrossFit.  If you are trying to attract members who don’t want to lift heavy, or use a barbell you are not selling CrossFit.  CrossFit methodology includes a barbell.  I am not saying throw a barbell at a newbie.  Obviously form, mechanics, and consistency have their place.  But to allow people to not want to lift, or use a barbell….Then why the hell did you sign up?

Stick to the basics, get people excited to move.  People will want to touch a barbell, they’ll see the results people get, they will see how lifting heavy is better at developing fitness than gymnastics and cardio alone.  As your gym grows, because you labor over its success, programming, and investing in making your members better, then you can allow specialty classes.  I see brand new gyms offering yoga, Oly Class, and you  name it, and they have 5 members.

The 100 words of fitness…read them, recite them, learn them.

Eat meat and vegtables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.  Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.  Practice and train all major lifts:  Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J and snatch.  Similarly master the basics of gymnastics:  Pull ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups,presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds.  Bike, run, swim, row, ect, hard and fast.  Five to Six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow.  Routine is the enemy.  Keep workouts short and intense.  Regularly learn and play new sports.

Offer CrossFit, get people excited about CrossFit, make people better with CrossFit, boast about the results your members got through CrossFit, get invested in being a better CrossFit coach.

Stop offering what you think will attract the most people.  You look scared and that you don’t trust the very product you affiliated with.  There will always be zumba, yoga, spinning classes, your gym need not to offer it instead of CrossFit.  If you want to offer it, partner up with local studios, get their members to try CrossFit and you will have your members try their services, but please stop diluting what CrossFit was meant for.


Love the Struggle

As I sit here tonight, unpacking and washing clothes and watching the archived video from this past weekends CrossFit games, I started to process what actually happened this weekend.

I looked forward to this weekend for such a long time.  It would be my first time to the CrossFit Regionals, and it would be my first time in the almost 2 years I have been doing CrossFit to go to a big event like this.  I was going to Regionals to volunteer, but also because I wanted to see for myself, as a coach what goes on at regionals.  We always hear about a CrossFit community, but we only know mostly our community within our own gyms.  We hear about the fittest men and women, well I wanted to see this group of fit people and see them go head to head.   Such an amazing and big event how is it all done?  Well I am going to break down this post into two sections.  One will be my experience as a volunteer and  just being around CFHQ and many other countless volunteers who gave of their time.  The second part will be probably an over emotional sappy description regarding community.

I had never volunteered for an even like this.  I had seen many on instagram who did it in the SoCal regions, and other regions last year and when I asked, said they loved every minute of it.  I wanted to see for myself what goes on behind the scenes to make these regional events happen and how they run so smoothly.  I was nervous that I was going to get a job I wouldn’t like or wouldn’t know how to do.  So I applied and got accepted to Volunteer Control.

What seemed like an eternity driving from NJ to MA I finally arrived close to 9:30 at night on Thursday Evening.  Met up with a good friend of mine for dinner.  We talked about her experience judging, and volunteering last year, community, our favorite lifts, why we love what we do, etc etc.  Needless to say it was a good night, but we headed to bed early seeing our shifts started at 7am.
I could barely sleep I was so nervous and excited.  5:45 was there before you knew it and off we were to Reebok Headquarters to start this amazing weekend.  I got there and was assigned to Ticket Sales/Customer Service.  Went through some quick training and at 8am  the crowds started to gather.  Everyones face had a smiled, they were happy to finally be here, to support their friends, their boxes, support athletes they probably never met but somehow left an impression on them that they were compelled to come cheer them on.  It made me happy to see how many people love this sport and love supporting the people who arduously put so much effort into it.
Jason Ackerman and Kayla Wells who were part of organizing the games and the volunteers ran a smooth operation.  They always made sure we were taken care of, wether we needed coffee, food, snacks, a break to go see some of our favorite teams, or athletes.  They never talked down to us, or berated us.  I sat in the staff tent and looked at all the different volunteers, “staff”, “media”, “medical”, “athlete services”, “security”, “judges”, “rogue equipment”.  There were so many.  That amazed me the more I thought about it.  True we got free shirts, and food, and entry to the games.  But at the same time if none of us had volunteered, the games would of have been a lot more stressful.  Yeah maybe they would have to have paid people to do all that that we did, but that would mean less money to help fund food for athletes, probably would have had to pay for parking, and not only that to train people to do all this work.   When you get a group of people who are like minded, and love the sport and love CrossFit its easier to Love the Struggle and work together.  As volunteers we all got to make friends with different CrossFitters from around the North East Region, we made friends that we probably wouldn’t of if we hadn’t worked together.  We were happy to do this job and be part of a community, were happy to help the athletes, or spectators.  It feels good to be a part of something so big.

So to all the Judges, Volunteers, and people running the show.  Thank you for allowing us to be a part of something so cool, thank you for the new people we got to meet and the friends we all made.  Thank you for making us feel appreciated by shouting us out and having everyone in the stands cheer for us.  I can not wait to do it next year!

Here’s where it starts to get more emotional….you have been warned.

Besides volunteering this weekend, I was looking forward to watch the games, some of my favorite athletes and my family from CrossFit 908 crush it.  I did just so, but took it in a lot differently than I thought I would.  Watching people you care about, do something they love, and see every bit of emotion easily read on their face does something to you.  Over the last few months, I knew team 908 had been working very hard to get everything down packed for their trip to regionals, I knew some of the struggles some of the members on the teams had.  When it came time to put all that handwork to use and lay it all out on the dance floor, Team 908 did just that.  You could see some displays of nervousness flash across their faces, before the 3..2..1.  However you couldn’t help but smile to see them all crushing it.  You also couldn’t help but hear the “sea of red”.  The “sea of red” was dubbed for all the support 908 had there.  Over 100 people came to support this team, and all from 908 and different boxes.  Heck I had my team 908 shirt on under my Staff shirt when I was volunteering.  You could see them look into the crowd when they needed some encouragement and boy did that crowd deliver.  On the way back to our Hotel I thought about that for a bit.  How many people from different boxes or different communities came to support 908, to embrace the struggle, and love that struggle with them.  How every rep or no rep, we all felt it almost as if it was towards us.  How involved we were with their performance.  100+ different people, different paths, cheering on people we cared about and loved so much.  To see Erin handstand walk, or bang out some strict handstand pushups was amazing.  Bridget getting her muscle ups and making them look effortlessly.  You couldn’t help but smile.  You couldn’t help but feel good when you saw them all hugging each other after each event.  How crazy the crowd went when Bridget had a couple Over Head Squats left, I along with her family were hugging each other and tears welling up in our eyes.  This emotional connection we have with a team of individuals who do what we do in the gym day in and day out, to see them leave it all out there on that floor.  It inspired me more than I thought it would.  To see team 908’s disposition after what seemed to be somewhat of a setback for them, and how they just smiled and crawled 12 spots up by the final day.  Teamwork, community, drive, motivation, I could go on and on.  I always tell Tim and Erin, I am not a member at 908, but they always make me feel like I am part of their family and I felt that on a whole new level this weekend.  They have an amazing community and family backing them.  They are genuine and it shows through all the people who came out to support them.  I couldn’t be happier for all of them!  Congrats guys on 10th place finish!  Thank you for the great memories that were made this past weekend!

From volunteering, to watching my friends compete, to meeting Spencer Hendel in person finally and getting to see how cool of a person he is, Sam Dancer, Daniel Tyminski, Jon Gilson, and all the other awesome athletes I look up to, to be able to share that love and passion for this sport that has changed so many peoples lives, to be able to enjoy the company of so many like minded people.
I can not wait until next year!
Until then, train hard, and love the struggle

-Miguel aka #miguel