CrossFit V16 Programming: Method Or Madness? Or The Longest Blog Post I Ever Plan On Writing

As a community, you guys have been an even mix of curious folks (healthy skeptics) and super fans about CrossFit V16 programming. The curious folks want to know why it's not CrossFit as usual. Where are the Girls and Hero WODS? What is this 5RM and 3RM voodoo? Shouldn't we be doing linear progressions? 

The super fans on the other hand are:

  1. Happy that they are making sound technical improvements
  2. Ecstatic that they are finally breaking past strength plateaus that have dragged on for far too long
  3. Grateful that the WODs are not leaving them destroyed for days or weeks

 So let me shed some light on what we're doing.

Strength: 5RMs, 3RMs,  Back Off Sets, And no linear Progressions

The strength paradigm we're working off of is a small f-u to linear progressions. We are working on a Max Effort model with time limit restrictions ("find a 5 Rep Max Back Squat in 15 minutes") because this model:

  1. Forces you to think strategically about how to get to big lifts without burning yourself out mindlessly doing too many warm up sets
  2. Gives you a chance to go really heavy when you're feeling great
  3. Restricts you from going too heavy when you're having an off day (whereas a linear progression would lock you into doing sets at a prescribed weight)

On most days, these Heavy Max Rep sets are followed by back-off sets (sets at a smaller percentage than your heaviest achieved set) to add volume at an appropriate resistance. We can't know what the appropriate resistance should be today until you've demonstrated how hard you can go today.

Yeah, but why so much strength? We want longer conditioning.

The holidays are upon us. I've been CrossFitting for over 6 years. I know what happens to your conditioning (and mine) between Thanksgiving and New Year's. I'm not going to over-emphasize conditioning so that you can recklessly shoot it in the face.  You will see longer conditioning sessions after January 1st. But you will still see a lot of strength training and those longer metcons (metabolic conditioning workouts) will be strategically placed, to allow good rest and recovery before you are asked to go super-hard in those longer time domains.

Conditioning Design

I'm not going to go big on details here but if you've been keeping track, our conditioning sessions (AMRAPs, intervals, workouts for time) have all lasted between 4 and 15 minutes and have been mostly free of big weights. That's intentional. You've been lifting pretty heavy during the first part of most classes; it doesn't seem beneficial or wise to ask you to continue to lift heavy for scores of extra reps. You can look forward to heavy conditioning sessions in the new year.

Hero and Girl WODs?

These are grueling benchmark workouts which many of you have built up in your head as incredibly difficult and hard to do well at. Well, I think that's a load of crap. Yes they are difficult. But also: Yes, you are capable of achieving more awesome scores than you think. For the time being, we're going to refrain from doing these until I've got you up and running at a capacity where you can confidently retest knowing that you're going to rip the shit out of your old scores. Deal?

Why are there so many parts to your workout?  I can't get it all done.

I run through every workout over and over in my head before I publish them, running through the logistics over and over until I'm sure that they can be completed in 55 to 60 minutes in our space and with our equipment. From time to time, I may get something wrong (like not enough small weight kettlebells for Russian situps).

I have three main reasons for loading 60 minutes with things to do or learn: 

  1. I want to put you in a setting where you must think through the work ahead of you, and where not taking initiative and not helping each other sets you too far back. Welcome to team building. Embrace each other.
  2. I am slowly rolling out an element that has been missing from your lifting sessions: resting on fixed breaks and returning to another set of lifting on incomplete rest. 
  3. There are 168 hours in a week. I get you for 2 to 6 of those hours (or what amounts to nearly nothing). You bet your ass I'm going to try to use that time as effectively as possible.

Conclusion: What does this all mean? 

It means I am not making up workouts in a vacuum. It means I am designing the workouts based on the unique needs of our community. It means I am going to challenge your bodies, but also your mental game and your approach to working and playing hard. It means you will have to work together, particularly in large classes, to get things done. Iron will sharpen iron.

Buy into the process. Buy into each other. The road will be hard (it's CrossFit!) but amazing things will happen. 


If you'd like to learn more about why I train you the way I do and where I get some of my ideas, please check out my CrossFit and Lifting heroes , Barbell Shrugged and Juggernaut Training Systems .