All Articles – Legion Strength & Conditioning

You may remember Michele from the 2018 CrossFit Games when she broke her wrist on the first event.

Since then Michele, has gone full-time with her nutrition consulting business Fit Plate Nutrition.

Now Michele isn’t just another athlete on Instagram spouting half-baked nutrition advice. She’s a registered dietitian with a background working in oncology – as well as working one-on-one with a variety of clients looking to look good, feel good, and perform at a high level.

Check out the full conversation with Michele, Jon and Todd to learn:

  • How Michele quit feeling sorry for herself after achieving her long-time goal of qualifying for the CrossFit Games – only to be injured on the first event.
  • What the role of “macros” are for elite athletes, every day athletes, and the folks in between
  • Why being hard on yourself can be counterproductive to long-term progress – and what to do instead if you’re feeling stuck and plateaued

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Check Out More from Michele Here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:22] Michele finally made it to the CrossFit Games in 2018 as an individual athlete – then broke her wrist on the first event. How did she deal with the disappointment?
  • [09:09] How Michele stopped feeling sorry for herself after the 2018 CrossFit Games.
  • [15:09] Michele’s transition from working in marketing for Gatorade to being a dietitian and working in oncology. And, what are the main differences between eating like a “professional athlete” and eating like an “every day athlete?”
  • [26:45] What is the role of tracking for both elite athletes and for every day athletes? And what about for people who are in a “gray area” and are aspiring to be elite athletes?
  • [34:27] How should people balance performance and aesthetic goals in their nutrition?
  • [43:15] Why hard-charging, goal-driven people may not want to “back off” – even though it could be the most beneficial thing for them to do.
  • [51:11] How does Michele work with clients in her practice? And, the importance of focusing on one thing to make long term progress.

Test and retest.

Most people have an understanding that they should be checking in on their numbers by retesting workouts that they’ve done before.

If those numbers are getting better…then great! Progress!

But, if they’re not, then something must be wrong.

In reality, once athletes get past the beginner stage, progress is much lumpier than we think.

Our day-to-day performance varies significantly.

We get stuck on long plateaus where we don’t feel like we’re making any progress.

And we periodically taste a higher level of performance – but then quickly drop back down to our previous level.

While this can be frustrating and psychologically challenging, this is, in fact, par for the course.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke and Todd to learn:

  • Why improved numbers on testing benchmarks don’t always translate into people getting better at the sport
  • The most common psychological traps to avoid during your next testing week
  • What typical patterns of improvement actually look like for elite performers – and why they don’t always get better on testing even if their fitness has improved

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [00:15] While knowing your testing numbers is helpful, being too attached to numbers can have negative consequences. And, beginner, intermediate and advanced athletes all need to think about their numbers differently.
  • [06:32] Even if you improve your strength, your cyclical time trials, and your max unbroken sets of gymnastics movements, you may not actually get better at CrossFit.
  • [11:29] Managing expectations is key to going through testing periods. If athletes think that they’re always supposed to set a new record, they can get themselves into some psychological trouble.
  • [17:16] Performance is more variable than people think – especially amongst folks who aren’t the ones who are always at the top of the leaderboard.
  • [19:13] How often should athletes go through a testing period? How can they manage the psychological aspect of testing?

When figuring out pacing for a workout, there’s a few common ways that athletes calculate what they can expect to accomplish.

The first (and most common) is to pace off of someone else who you know is typically around the same fitness level – maybe plus or minus a few reps or rounds.

The second is to do a round at a moderate effort then adjust the pace up or down from there.

While these are both reasonable strategies and can give an idea of what is realistic, it’s also important to be able to calculate an expected pace from “first principles” so-to-speak.

Doing this is a skill just like any other, and requires knowing a few tricks: how long do certain movements take, how long do transitions typically take, how often can you expect to lift a heavy barbell, and how much can you expect to slow down during a workout?

Check out the full conversation with Jon and Todd to learn:

  • How long common movements take – like wall balls, dumbbell snatches, and burpees
  • How to think about pacing heavy barbells
  • How to factor in rest and fatigue when calculating your paces for workouts

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

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Show Notes:

  • [00:15] The 2 most common strategies that people use when approaching workouts: pacing off of their own first round and pacing off of someone who tends to be at a similar capacity. How can we use basic rep math to get an outside perspective on how long our rounds should take?
  • [13:10] How do we account for fatigue accumulating as we work? And how do we deal with barbell-based movements like heavy squat cleans when estimating time?
  • [25:09] Cyclical pieces like rowing and biking give us a monitor – but how do we know what paces we should attempt to hold?

Some athletes are able to get pretty good at CrossFit pretty fast.

But, these athletes often find themselves hitting glass ceilings in their performance.

Even though they are able to do most of the gymnastics movements, hit decent weights, and grit through conditioning workouts, they plateau earlier than they think they should.

What’s going on here?

Often, these athletes have skipped steps in their development and are able to compensate their way through training.

To improve long-term, these folks need to be willing to go backwards in their training and rebuild. This can be a huge ego hit, and – to be frank – not everyone is mature enough to do it.

But, if we’re serious about getting better over time, that’s often what we have to do.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke and Todd to learn:

  • The surprising ways that athletes learn to compensate – and it’s not just about mobility and technique
  • Why backing off on conditioning is actually much better for building an engine – and why too much effort is a bad thing
  • The psychology of taking a step backward in order to take two steps forward – and why it’s so hard for us to do

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [00:15] Some athletes are able to get pretty good at CrossFit pretty fast. But, what are some surprising ways that these athletes find glass ceilings on their performance?
  • [7:41] People think of “compensation” as a bad thing, but better athletes are often better at compensating. Compensation isn’t just about lifting technique – how do some elite athletes compensate in their conditioning work?
  • [17:41] Why taking a step back threatens athletes’ egos – and why the measurable aspect of CrossFit has a dark side that can have a negative impact on performance.

Pacing is important in just about any workout, but it’s particularly crucial when there’s a heavy barbell looming.

If you don’t have a good understanding of how quickly you can move with different weights in conditioning workouts, and if you don’t understand how long you need to rest between heavier attempts, you can end up getting chewed up pretty badly on these kinds of workouts – even if you’re strong enough to move the weight.

On this episode of the podcast, we go over some key things to think about when pacing yourself on “heavy metcons” (or battery-based workouts), as well as some key things to think about when training to get better at this type of workout.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Todd and Luke to learn:

  • How to develop the metronome-like pacing that you see elite athletes holding when doing barbell-based conditioning work
  • Why getting stronger works for some athletes to improve their ability to do “heavy metcons” but not others
  • Why being naturally stronger and more powerful can be a detriment to your ability to lift a heavy barbell under fatigue.

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [00:15] How to pace for battery workouts or “heavy metcons” – and how to get better at them.
  • [06:53] What do you need to think about to improve your battery? Hint: It’s not just about getting stronger. And, how should people who tend to be more explosive train their battery?
  • [13:15] Why experience is one of the best teachers for pacing in “heavy” workouts – and how to train so that you can learn as much as possible.
  • [20:39] Is there a difference between women and men in ability to do heavy weights in conditioning workouts?
  • [25:16] How do tests of strength usually appear in CrossFit competitions? And – what should people do in their training sessions or in their next “heavy metcon” to get better?

Most people approach their workouts with some sort of plan – but that doesn’t mean that they’re able to execute on it. In this podcast, we are going to go over the main things that athletes need to be thinking about when they’re thinking about how they’re going to split up their reps in workouts.

It’s not as simple as just making a spreadsheet and having a perfect fractioning strategy.

Instead, athletes need to be able to make a plan based upon their current capacity, the interference between movements in the workout, and their expected level of metabolic fatigue. Then, athletes need to be able to adjust on the fly during their session based upon how they’re actually feeling since sticking to a plan that is unraveling is a surefire way to completely fall apart during a workout.

In this podcast, we’re going to break down how to effectively design conditioning workouts so that you can actually get better at doing the things that you struggle with under fatigue.

Check out the full conversation with Jon and Todd to learn:

  • The 3 things that athletes need to consider when making a plan for splitting up their reps in a workout
  • How to use training as an opportunity to learn about your capacity in different scenarios
  • How to find the right balance between sticking to a plan and “pushing through” and calling an audible and adjusting on the fly

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [00:17] Most people have some sort of plan going into a workout, but what are the 3 things you should be thinking about when coming up with a strategy?
  • [07:33] The best time to learn what works best for you is during training. Here’s what you need to focus on.
  • [17:10] How does overall metabolic fatigue impact fractioning strategies? And how do you know when you’re going to redline?
  • [21:29] What is the balance between sticking to your plan – and being adaptable and adjusting on the fly?

In this podcast, we’re going to break down how to effectively design conditioning workouts so that you can actually get better at doing the things that you struggle with under fatigue.

We’ve seen a lot of athletes mix this up – either by always doing a bunch of crazy, chaotic stuff in their training, or by only following totally planned out, periodized structures based upon a specific plan for progression over time.

It turns out, they’re not “just metcons.” The way that conditioning work is structured can make a huge difference in terms of how you adapt to it over time.

Especially if you’re not a freakishly talented athlete who can seemingly do just a whole lot of anything and everything and consistently get better.

What should everyone else be doing? If we want to get better at pull-ups in metcons, do we just do a bunch of metcons with pull-ups in them and throw in some additional strict pull-ups?

If we want to get better at heavy squat cleans, do we do a weightlifting cycle and some EMOM weightlifting work?

It’s not always that simple.

Check out the full conversation with Luke, Jon and Todd to learn:

  • The mistake that many athletes make when thinking about training for a competition vs training to get better at something.
  • They key to designing conditioning workouts that are appropriate for your skill level
  • Why some athletes can get better at CrossFit just by doing a strength cycle and focusing on “heavy metcons” – and why that’s a disaster for the wrong kind of athlete.

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [00:15] Conditioning workouts can have a different “feeling” and a different stimulus. Your conditioning workouts should have a goal, and shouldn’t be thrown together haphazardly.
  • [04:56] The mistake that many athletes make when thinking about training for a competition vs training to get better at something.
  • [12:03] Training isn’t linear – don’t expect to improve immediately from each training cycle.
  • [18:31] They key to designing conditioning workouts that are appropriate for your skill level
  • [25:25] Why some athletes can get better at CrossFit just by doing a strength cycle and focusing on “heavy metcons” – and why that’s a disaster for the wrong kind of athlete.

As athletes develop in the sport of CrossFit, there’s a few stages of “learning to pace” that they typically go through.

Many folks start off always pushing the intensity – attacking a workout just about as hard as they can, and barely holding on to the finish.

Then, at some point, they typically learn that they should have a plan, pull back on their pace on the assault bike, and understand what their split times are on conditioning pieces.

In this stage, many athletes also become focused on planning out all of their sessions and creating a mental “spreadsheet” of how things are going to go.

While better than having no plan and being totally reckless, the downsides here are that athletes typically become overly rigid and unadaptable – and they struggle when they are unable to stick with their plans.

In the highest order stage of pacing development, athletes are able to formulate a plan, but intuitively understand when to deviate from the plan – either to speed up, slow down, break early, push harder, or go faster than they intended in order to psychologically break a competitor.

Check out the full conversation with Luke and Todd to learn:

  • Why the role of a coach isn’t just to write workouts, but to design scenarios that require athletes to learn about themselves and their effort through the process of training
  • Why the deep intuitive sense of pacing that elite athletes have developed causes them to explain their strategies in ways that can be confusing and inaccurate
  • When an athlete should work on learning to pull back – and when an athlete should work on learning to push harder

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [0:15] There’s a standard trajectory that many athletes follow while learning to pace: not having any strategy and going out too hot, then learning to plan and over-planning, then developing an intuition for how to react on the fly based upon how they’re feeling in a workout.
  • [3:52] Workouts are not “just work” – athletes should be trying to learn about their pacing strategy and their reaction to different scenarios (ie splits for each interval of a rowing workout, fractioning strategies for gymnastics, etc)
  • [8:31] Athletes tend to go through a phase of over-calculating pacing. At this stage, attempt to force adaption through strict structure; instead, there needs to be acceptance and understanding of the need to deviate from the ‘spreadsheet’ in certain situations.
  • [12:02] Elite athletes cannot always be trusted when explaining pacing since they have an overdeveloped intuitive capacity to make pacing decisions – and they often don’t even realize that they are using certain strategies.
  • [16:16] Athletes can often learn a lot about their ability to pace by working through very specific pacing scenarios (ie “Row 500m at 1:55 pace, then do 1 clean every 10s for 10 reps”)
  • [20:00] As athletes improve, they will need to increase their paces. Many athletes will settle into a specific range of paces or reps for certain workouts – without realizing that they’ve increased their capacity and need to start to push themselves harder.
  • [25:45] Pacing in a competitive scenario isn’t just about how you feel relative to the workout – it’s about how you feel relative to other competitors around you potentially going a lot faster than you.

Ring Muscle-Up

Is it possible to do a post or a podcast on masters athletes without saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” I wouldn’t know, since we definitely busted out that hackneyed bromide a few times during this episode.

Nevertheless, there’s still some solid info in here on understanding how to think about volume and intensity for masters athletes – as well as understanding the process of skill acquisition.

If you’re a masters athlete, both your “biological age” and your “training age” will impact your ability to handle and adapt to training volume, so it’s key that you have an understanding of both.

And, while we do expect masters athletes to often adapt more slowly to training physiological traits like aerobic capacity, strength and muscle endurance, we often underrate the ability of masters athletes to acquire and refine new skills.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke and Todd to learn:

  • Why some masters athletes can still experience “newbie gains”
  • How masters athletes should prioritize their training programs – and how many things a masters athlete should work on at once during a training cycle
  • Why people underrate the ability of masters athletes to acquire new skills – and the mistake that most athletes make when trying to refine or develop their skills

Listen below – or on the podcast player of your choice.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [0:12] Understanding the difference between “biological age” and “training age” – and how the difference between those can dictate how much volume and intensity a masters athlete should have in their training.
  • [4:40] Athletes with higher “training age” (more experience in the gym) as well as higher “biological age” will adapt more slowly to training. Athletes with high biological age but low training age can still experience “newbie gains” and get better quite quickly.
  • [9:05] Masters athletes often have much more stress and responsibility outside of the gym – in addition to a slower rate of adaptation. Because of this, masters athletes need to be clearer in their training priorities, whereas younger athletes can often work on everything at once.
  • [15:17] Don’t fast track introducing higher volume and higher intensity training programs for masters athletes. And – how to retrain faulty movement patterns that have been ingrained through potentially decades of compensatory movement.
  • [23:20] Jon’s magical thinking detour into using visualization and PVC pipes to replace heavy squatting sessions.
  • [27:42] Masters athletes can still acquire skills through deliberate practice and technique work – often at a similar rate to younger athletes. However, very few people have the “skill of acquiring skills,” and masters athletes often have less unstructured time in their schedules to engage in the practice and play necessary for skill development.

In our previous installment in this series, we laid out some archetypes for athletes looking to improve their conditioning and build their engine. We also included some tests and assessments that you can use to figure out where your biggest weaknesses are. It’s not enough to just know that you “need to work on your engine” – you can be much more granular and figure out if you need to work on your capacity in general, your ability in mixed work, or your ability in cyclical work.

It’s also not enough to simply hammer yourself with the “weakness work.” If you struggle with barbell cycling, you won’t necessarily get better just by doing DT every other week.

In this article, we will give some more tactical and tangible recommendations for building your engine. We will include both weekly training templates for different types of athletes, as well as breakdowns of specific sessions and progressions.

We will also give specific training recommendations for each of the archetypes of athletes that we discussed in our previous article on building your engine. They are:

For Athletes Lacking Capacity Across the Board

These athletes tend to either be beginners or intermediates who just need to get more training experience under their belts, people who are very far on the “explosive” end of the spectrum who seem to be built to sprint, jump and throw rather than grinding it out on an assault bike for 30 minutes.

Beginner/Intermediate Progression

Many of these athletes are just starting to take their training more seriously. They may have recently decided that they would like to do more serious training than what is offered in standard group fitness classes, or they may have recently made the transition from another sport into CrossFit.

The goal for these folks is to simultaneously build an aerobic based while also creating some exposure to intense mixed modal work – and to learn what it means to hold a “sustainable” pace in a variety of contexts.

These athletes also likely need to gain exposure to strength training, gymnastics work, and varied mixed modal scenarios.

Since they are relative beginners, they will be able to progress in multiple areas at once simply by getting touches on each area in their training.

However, we don’t want to teach these athletes bad habits in pacing or energy systems utilization early in their training, nor do we want to “skip steps” in their development and just hammer them with high intensity conditioning.

We want to focus on building volume and developing capacity in a way that sets these athletes up for long-term success. We are concerned with their abilities in 1-2 years – not their abilities in 3-6 months.

Here’s an example template for this type of athlete:

Monday
Clean, technique
+
Back squat, intense
+
Long aerobic, cyclical-based

Tuesday
Gymnastics, skill
+
Upper body push/pull, intense
+
Gymnastics, volume accumulation

Wednesday
Snatch, technique
+
Snatch, pulls
+
Lower body accessory
+
Mixed intervals, sustainable

Thursday
Active recovery

Friday
Power clean, intense
+
Gymnastics, strength
+
Grinder conditioning w/ carries, sleds, etc.

Saturday
Cyclical, aerobic
+
Mixed, intervals
+
Cyclical, aerobic
+
Core

Note that we are spending a lot of time on skill with this athlete in both weightlifting and gymnastics – and most of their conditioning is going to come in varied interval scenarios with a focus on developing sustainability.

All of the conditioning work should be designed such that the athlete is able to maintain paces and develop an intuition about their abilities in different types of workouts.

Powerful Athlete Progression

This type of athlete has often developed many compensation strategies to get through longer workouts. In order to progress, they will typically need to slow down quite a bit in and rebuild their capacity to be based upon sustainable effort rather than flaming out and suffering through workouts.

Creating sustainability for this type of athlete can be very tricky, since – especially if they have been doing CrossFit for awhile – they have often learned some pretty solid strategies to get through workouts based upon their ability to generate power and handle discomfort.

Athletes like this will often have performances that are “all over the place” – they will put up some very impressive scores for certain types of conditioning workouts, but they will completely meltdown if they are given the wrong combination of movements or if they pace incorrectly.

Based upon this, we will want to limit their exposure to areas where they can “be explosive” and focus instead on adding as much volume of sustainable work as possible to their template.

Monday
Easy cyclial
+
Clean, technique
+
Grinder
+
Long aerobic, cyclical-based

Tuesday
Gymnastics, skill
+
Gymnastics, EMOM
+
Cyclical + Gymnastics, intervals
+
Core

Wednesday
Snatch, technique
+
Snatch, pulls
+
Lower body accessory
+
Cyclical + mixed intervals, sustainable

Thursday
Active recovery

Friday
Cyclical, varied paces
+
Power clean, EMOM
+
Grinder conditioning w/ carries, sleds, etc.
+
Cyclical, varied paces

Saturday
Cyclical, aerobic
+
Mixed, intervals
+
Cyclical, aerobic
+
Core

In coaching this athlete, we will need to focus on teaching them how to “hold back” and find paces that seem almost “too easy” in order to build up capacity. We can also run into psychological issues as these athletes often identify as being strong, quick and powerful – and we will often need to let some of those characteristics slip in order to create improvement.

In order to teach sustainability, we will often need to bring these athletes back a few steps and teach them to work consistently at a lower rate of perceived exertion.

We can also add volume to the training session – especially at moderate effort – to force them to stay aerobic in mixed scenarios.

Here’s an example of a possible session for a Saturday in the above template.

10 min @ 75%:
3 min assault bike
2 min step-ups, alternating (24″/20″)
+
(Short rest)
+
20 min @ consistent splits:
21 row calories w/ damper @ 1
15 wall balls (14/10)
9 burpee box jumps, no pus-up (20″/16″)
+
(Short rest)
+
10 min @ 75%:
3 min assault bike
2 min KB farmer’s walk (light)

Training notes:
•Purposefully using less than typical “Rx” weights for the conditioning piece allows for more control over pacing and avoids redlining

Using lighter weights and forcing consistent split times will allow these athletes to move consistently in mixed scenarios for 20 minutes without having to “suffer through” training sessions. This may not seem hard enough for these athletes, but – if they can learn what it feels like to move sustainably – they will ideally be able increase the difficulty of the work that they can do without redlining through consistent training.

In the above template, we also mention “grinder” workouts. These are a crucial training tool for folks who are quite powerful, since it allows them to continue practicing doing “CrossFit” – but – through the design of the workout – we can force pacing and ideally prevent athletes from going out too hot and blowing up.

In grinder workouts, we use movement combinations that don’t allow for fast turnover or high cycle time, and instead force athletes into pacing their sets and “chipping away” at difficult movements.

Here are some examples:

Grinder with Isometric Holds

15 min AMRAP:
400m run
100′ D-ball Zercher carry (150/100)
Accumulate 90s wall sit at parallel
400m run
100′ D-ball Zercher carry (150/100)
Accumulate 90s stir-the-pot

Training notes:
•The isometric holds will require pacing of the effort on the run.
•While this session can be made “difficult,” it’s unlikely that you will end up rolling on the ground after something like this

“CrossFit-esque” Grinder

For time:
21 double KB deadlifts (88/hand – 62/hand)
12 wall climbs
9 burpee bar muscle-ups
15 double KB deadlifts
9 wall climbs
7 burpee bar muscle-ups
9 double KB deadlifts
6 wall climbs
5 burpee bar muscle-ups

Training notes:
•This session is more “CrossFit” in design – although the movements do not allow for fast cycle time and require pacing.

Depending on the stage of the season, the level of the athlete, and their psychological need to do difficult “CrossFit” workouts, we can include more training pieces like the first one that look like a challenging, competition workout but force pacing.

Or, if we are looking for more work that has less of a central nervous system challenge, we can use things like isometric holds to and grinder effort carries.

For Athletes who are Good with Mixed Work but Struggle with Cyclical Work

Most people can probably imagine an athlete who will absolutely crush when doing a combination of strict handstand push-ups, double-unders and moderate weight power cleans, but can’t seem to maintain a solid pace on a 2000m row or a 10 minute assault bike test.

These athletes are often small relative to the field, and – based upon bodyweight and limb length – they struggle to create enough power and torque on cyclical pieces.

Just as a male athlete who is 6’3” and 235# with long arms may struggle on burpees relative to a smaller athlete, someone who is not built with the levers and the mass to move well on the assault bike or the erg may always be playing catch up on workouts that heavily utilize those machines.

However, it’s not always just a body type and body size issue.

Some athletes also seem to be elite in terms of moving through muscle endurance or battery-based scenarios, but struggle when they are in a situation where the limiting factor has more to do with maintaining a steady rate of contractions and power output rather than quickly recovering from a challenging set of ring muscle-ups.

For these folks, they need to be able to increase the pace at which they can move sustainably at high effort, since they are already good at doing something challenging and quickly recovering.

Their training should focus on varied pacing scenarios with both mixed and cyclical pieces that require them to keep moving throughout – rather than working in quick bursts of muscle endurance or strength endurance.

Monday
Clean, technique
+
Alactic intervals cyclical and/or sled-based
+
Long aerobic, cyclical-based

Tuesday
Gymnastics, skill
+
Upper body push/pull, intense
+
Running, intervals

Wednesday
Snatch, technique
+
Snatch, pulls
+
Lower body accessory
+
Cyclical + mixed intervals, sustainable

Thursday
Active recovery

Friday
Power clean, intense
+
Cyclical, varied paces
+
Grinder conditioning w/ carries, sleds, etc.
+
Cyclical, varied paces

Saturday
Cyclical, aerobic
+
Mixed, intervals
+
Cyclical, aerobic
+
Core

In comparing the above template to the “sprinter” archetype, we can see that we are including more cyclical conditioning pieces, and we are also less concerned with “dampening” the athlete before allowing them to do heavy work on things like squatting or weightlifting.

There are quite a few similarities in designing training for these types of athletes, though.

For Athletes who are Good with Cyclical Work but Struggle with Mixed Work

This type of athlete is the most complex athlete to work with, since they likely have very specific things that seem unreasonably challenging for them – especially when compared to their scores across all conditioning scenarios.

Typically, these athletes present with good overall capacity based upon their cyclical numbers and certain types of mixed tests, but they will have a lot of problems with mixed tests that don’t play to their strengths.

These athletes tend to need to work on either:

  • Barbell cycling repeatability (something like Double DT)
  • Gymnastics repeatability (something like 14.2 or 19.3)
  • High turnover mixed work (something like 19.1 or 18.1)

To develop repeatability in a movement, we need to find a volume and intensity that allows for sustainability, then progress into more volume and more chaotic scenarios.

For example, we can start working on strict handstand push-up repeatability in an EMOM with controlled reps that allows for consistency, then progress through more challenging scenarios until we end up with something like 19.3 that includes a large set of strict handstand push-ups under fatigue followed by handstand walking.

Here’s an example showing a theoretical progression (that would probably occur over months) for both handstand push-ups and chest-to-bar pull-ups.

Tightly controlled interval work with minimal interference

EMOM 10:
1st: 30s assault bike @ high effort
2nd: 4-8 unbroken handstand push-ups + 4-8 unbroken chest-to-bar pull-ups

Training notes:
•Tightly controlled sets with minimal fatigue accumulation

Intervals with aerobic fatigue and some mixed work (Minimal interference)

4 rounds–
2 min assault bike @ 85%
-Into
2 min AMRAP:
3 handstand push-ups
6 air squats
3 chest-to-bar pull-ups
6 air squats
-Rest 2 min

Training notes:
•Aerobic fatigue and some mixed work – however, there is still minimal interference between movements.

Mixed intervals with sustainable sets and some interference

5 rounds:
15 wall balls (20/14)
9 handstand push-ups
15 wall balls
9 chest-to-bar pull-ups
-Rest 3 min

Training notes:
•All mixed intervals with some interference between movements.
•Sets should be sustainable

AMRAP with sustainable sets

10 min AMRAP:
5 handstand push-ups
10 Russian KB swings (70/53)
15 box jumps, step down (24″/20″)
5 chest-to-bar pull-ups
10 Russian KB swings
15 box jumps, step down

Training notes:
•AMRAP structure rather than interval structure
•Small, sustainable sets

Chaotic scenario with large sets and lots of interference:

For time:
50 thrusters (95/65)
50 chest-to-bar pull-ups
50 burpee box jumps (24″/20″)
50 handstand push-ups

Training notes:
•Movements use similar muscle groups and interfere with each other
•Large sets will require fractioning from the start

At each stage of progression, we will want to see the athlete completing the volume of work that we expect them to encounter in whatever competitive scenario they are shooting to participate in (the Open, class workouts, local competitions, Sanctionals, whatever). And, we will want them to demonstrate that they are able to complete that volume with consistent, repeatable sets and without breakdown in technique or pacing.

We can create a similar structure for cycling moderate weight barbells.

Paced, sustainable intervals with aerobic fatigue

5 rounds @ escalating pace per round:
20 assault bike calories
15 power snatches (75/55)
-Rest 2-3 min

Training notes:
•Aerobic fatigue from cyclical work
•Paced sustainable intervals

Cyclical and mixed intervals

5 rounds:
1 min assault bike @ escalating pace
1 min bar-facing burpees
1 min hang power cleans (135/95)
•Done in unbroken sets of 5.
-Rest 2-3 min

Training notes:
•Cyclical and mixed fatigue leading into barbell cycling
•Unbroken requirement forces pacing and also increases difficulty

AMRAP with cyclical work and increasing sets

10 min AMRAP:
5-10-15…row calories
3-6-9-…front squats (135/95)
5-10-15…row calories
3-6-9…shoulder-to-overhead (135/95)

Training notes:
•AMRAP rather than intervals
•Cyclical pieces allow for pacing
•Increasing volume per set becomes more challenging

For time mixed piece with interference

For time:
15 burpee box jumps (24″/20″)
12 deadlifts (155/105)
9 hang power cleans
6 shoulder-to-overhead

Training notes:
•Variation of DT that adds more volume and more fatigue – and takes the workout outside of the “sprint” time domain
•There will be some interference between the burpee box jumps and barbell cycling.

We can craft similar progressions for just about any movement or combination of movements that gives athletes trouble.

Say that you are pretty good with ring muscle-ups in most situations. And that you are pretty good at moderate load weightlifting in conditioning scenarios. But you notice that you start to fall apart when you have to do squat cleans or squat snatches paired with ring muscle-ups.

You can very easily craft a similar progression based upon the pairing of those movements and progress it from a controlled, sustainable state into a messy, fatigued state.

For improving capacity in high turnover scenarios, we will typically want to teach the athlete how to pace by using cyclical pieces as an opportunity to control their effort, then move into scenarios where we are pulling out the cyclical work and using only mixed modal scenarios.

Here’s an example of a session with varied pacing and a high turnover mixed piece.

500m row @ 75%
500m row @ gradually escalating pace
500m row @ 75%
500m row @ gradually escalating pace
+
(Rest 5 min)
+
10 min @ escalating pace per round:
12 assault bike calories
10 DB snatches, alternating (50/35)
8 toes-to-bar
+
(Rest 5 min)
+
500m row @ 75%
500m row @ gradually escalating pace
500m row @ 75%
500m row @ gradually escalating pace

Training notes:
•Paces should escalate gradually (not stepwise) to a high effort pace on the 500m rows
•Assault bike/snatch/toes-to-bar should be small enough sets that you are able to do all sets unbroken with quick transitions.

By adding the assault bike to the DB snatches and the toes-to-bar – as well as prescribing increasing pace per set – athletes can use the bike to dial themselves back and prevent redlining.

Athletes will also have to start slower than they think in order to escalate pace per rounds, which will give them an opportunity to learn how to modulate their effort not just on the assault bike, but also through controlling their cycle time on the snatches and their rest between movements.

For an Athlete who is Good in both Mixed and Cyclical Work

These are athletes are often the prototypical “elite CrossFitter.” These folks will often improve in all capacities (strength, muscle endurance, cyclical work, mixed modal conditioning, etc.) when they are exposed to chaotic training. These are the people who can do a strength cycle and a bunch of “tough metcons” – and set PRs on everything.

This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have a focus in their training or that they may not struggle with certain movements or combinations of movements – but they can likely do a lot of different types of training and get better across the board.

They can also often perform lots of complicated and messy training pieces that look a lot like a testing environment and improve their capacity based upon that.

This means that they are often able to train in something that looks like the sport that they are competing in all the time and get consistently better at everything – and they are often able to improve their skills in varied environments simply through exposure in a variety of different scenarios.

Be cautious of applying what works for this group to other types of athletes as you will often find that they stagnate or start to feel beat up or overtrained!

For these folks, they will often have specific movements, combinations of movements, or time domains that they need to work on. They can often get away with something that looks more like typical “weakness work” since they are adaptable to just about everything and can often get through most training properly through their intuitive understanding of pacing and their overall capacity.

This means that they can do just about any “competitive CrossFit” training program and add in some additional work on things that they struggle with (handstand walking under fatigue, heavy barbell repeatability, shorter time domain workouts) – and they will often see improvement in their specific weaknesses just by adding in some dedicated training time to them.

Based upon this, we’re not going to write out a template for this type of athlete. Just do a bunch of different stuff and spend some extra time on the things that you know that you struggle with – and you’ll probably just get better at everything 🙂