Running Cycles at CrossFit Boxes: Stop Wasting Your Clients' Time

TAGS: group training program, crossfit programming, CrossFit group classes, Jason Brown, group training, training cycles, CrossFit, programming, running, gym, personal training, speed, training

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I still don't understand why coaches who program for CrossFit boxes subscribe to a linear model of programming. And I'm not sure how linear-based cycles and CrossFit became connected because the two could NOT be any more unfit to be married.

In group programming, we have many limitations, many of which cannot be overcome simply by guessing or asking questions. More importantly, we don't have a glimpse into the stressors of our clients’ lives outside of the gym, but we know everyone has an inherent level of stress.


RECENT: The Most Valuable Aspect of CrossFit Group Programming


I'm not going to waste your time today, so I'll get right to the point. Here is my list of why you should avoid this form of programming at your facility like the plague.

It's Easy to Develop One Quality and Neglect the Rest

Oftentimes in an effort to develop one quality, you neglect other areas of fitness. For example, it's not uncommon to see losses in maximal strength when strength-endurance is targeted. Similarly, when power-development is targeted, it's not uncommon to see losses in muscular hypertrophy. The list goes on.

Peaking is NOT Realistic

Shit happens and we have bad days. The premise of trying to adhere to strict guidelines with programming does not account for this, and the objective of trying to be your best for one day doesn't have any bearing on your clients' goals.

People’s Schedules Change

How can we run a cycle not knowing who is to going show up at the crux of the cycle when intensity is highest? Some people will get results, while others don't.

The General Population Doesn't Care About Powerlifting

If you think your general population folks give a shit about increasing their 1RM deadlift, think again. Most want to look and feel better and could care less about powerlifting. Even still, we can increase these lifts a hell of a lot more effectively by using the Conjugate method (Westside Barbell deadlift average is 860 pounds — and they DON'T DEADLIFT!)

You'll Lose Clients

What about your clients that just started taking group classes and enter on Week 8 of your 10-week cycle? What are they going to do? Well, they'll probably be confused as you are, which brings me to my next point.

Percentages are Confusing

Some people in CrossFit group classes know their maxes, but many do not. Using percentages is a great way to remove the fun from your classes and confuse your clients; calculators have no place in your classes.

It Does NOT Assess Limiting Factors

Most who are limited with compound movements are not limited by the movement itself, but by the primary movers that assist the lifts. Want your squat and deadlift to go up? Increase the strength of your clients' glutes, hips, and hamstrings, and get back to me.

Bodies Adapt to Repeated Movements

The human body is smart and adapts quickly. After three weeks, your clients will suffer diminishing returns. The point at which you begin to accommodate to the same movement pattern is the same point at which you start to go backward with your progress. This is why we rotate variations for max effort and dynamic effort regularly.

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It's Effing BORING

Please, for the love of God, do your own programming! If you're cool with doing the same shit for 12 weeks, then you’re probably cool with bird watching, too. But MOST type-A people who are drawn to CrossFit are drawn to novelty. Really, who wants to do the same squat, press, and deadlift for longer than three weeks?

Overuse Injury is More Common

It's not unreasonable to think that if you're performing the same movement patterns every week with increasing levels of intensity that you will invariably compensate, exacerbating faulty motor patterns thereby increasing the risk of injury.

Missing A Day Can Mess Clients' Cycles Up

The overall success of your cycle is highly dependent on your athletes' attendance, so if your athletes miss a week for whatever reason (which is quite common with group classes), the results can be significantly different across your client base.

Highly Individualized Programs Don't Work in Group Settings

For your experienced athletes, performing 3x2 at 90 percent of their 1RM may be relatively smooth, whereas your beginner/intermediate athletes will have a difficult time performing doubles (even for three sets) at 90 percent. This will be even more noticeable in a group setting if you're having new folks start midway through a cycle.

Retention Suffers

Your chance of losing folks out of sheer boredom is much higher with this style of programming. Most athletes who attend a local CrossFit box love novelty and having a rotation of movement patterns, which keep these trainees engaged in the process.

Percentages Ignore Clients' Feelings

Going off of percentages negates how someone is feeling on a given day. Look, we all have stress and need to be able to auto-regulate if we aren't "feeling it." With linear work, you can miss the boat on vital aspects of the cycle because you had a shitty week outside of the gym.

Lack of Progression Causes Mental Setbacks

At any given point during a maximal strength cycle, you might have setbacks, which may make the written work not realistic on a given day. How do you think your folks are going to feel if they cannot perform the prescribed work? I can tell you from MANY personal experiences with linear work that it's a shitty feeling to know you've gone backward when you consider the time and effort you've put in.

Human beings are dynamic: It makes no sense as far as human biology is concerned trying to train the dynamic human body in a linear fashion. The over-arching goal is to provide well-rounded fitness 365 days a year to your group athletes — being your best at a moment’s notice, NOT for one or two days out of the year.

Keep in mind that we are not trying to transform anyone into a powerlifter, Olympic lifter, endurance athlete, or bodybuilder with this approach, but your folks will make progress with their lifts, their aerobic ability, and gain lean muscle mass if we do not neglect any of the special strengths and all forms of conditioning. Most importantly, our clients need to have fun! Trying to stick to the same program with the same movements for extended periods of time is not fun.

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