The Underlying Philosophy Behind Programming at CFSBK
By Chris Fox
At CFSBK, we program for long-term health and fitness utilizing strength training, Olympic lifting, gymnastics, and mostly CrossFit-style couplet and triplet conditioning work. While some days look a bit different, a routine day at CrossFit South Brooklyn looks like this: DROMs, Warm Ups, Lifting, WOD prep, followed by a WOD. Let’s look at some of the reasons why we structure and program this way in terms of what each segment offers.
DROMs: A general, light, dynamic warm up of joints and soft tissue will get your heart rate up a bit and help you enter a training mindset. It starts to get the sleep out of your eyes or the emails in your inbox out of your head. It also offers time for the QOD [LINK], which can lighten the mood and let you get to know a bit about the people you’ll be working hard with.
Warm Ups: You need to be warmed up properly to move well and help prevent injury. Standardized warm ups move you through a wide range of motion, get you sweaty, and give you an opportunity to develop some strength in basic gymnastics and barbell movements you’ll regularly see in classes. Focused barbell drills review the positions and intentions of the lift you’ll be working on that day. We structure the drills so that you also get warm as you’re doing them.
Lifts: You need to be stronger, as strength is the physical adaptation with the greatest carryover to the rest of your training and to life in general. You may have noticed that we squat twice each week. We’ve been programming this way for years and for good reason. I can’t say it any better than Mark Rippetoe so here’s a quote from the man himself:
“There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that provides the level of central nervous activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat.”
The Olympic lifts train power, strength, coordination, flexibility, and overall athleticism. If you can throw a heavy weight overhead, catch it in a rock bottom overhead squat, then stand it up (PR bar slam optional), almost all of the other things we do will be easier. As far as the other lifts go, the bench is the best upper body strength developer and is simply fun. The press is another great upper body strength developer—it keeps the shoulder girdle healthy and works the muscles that stabilize your trunk extremely well. Every few cycles we’ll program an upper body gymnastics movement as a strength developer, as this allows us to have some fun and vary the stimulus a bit. The deadlift will get your back stronger like no other exercise can, and it’s almost always the lift where you’ll be able to move the most weight, automatically making it pretty cool. The average lifter should be able to deadlift more than they can squat. If that's not the case for you, we recommend coming in on days when we're pulling weights off the floor.
WOD Prep and WOD: We discuss the intent of the WOD at the whiteboard, along with scaling options and strategies. The WOD is where we get our conditioning and develop the ability to work at high intensities for longer than a set of squats can take us. As stated above, we use mostly mixed modal couplets and triplets. Our conditioning tends to range from short, high intensity three- to seven-minute efforts, to medium intensity eight- 15-minute efforts on most days, with a lower intensity 20-minute-plus WOD thrown in once a week or so.
Even when the total time is above 15 minutes, we’ll often use interval work so that intensity stays high, given that high intensity (anaerobic) training has positive carryovers to low intensity (aerobic) training and offers other benefits. High intensity training can develop and preserve muscle mass, whereas long slow distance training can cause you to lose it if used exclusively. High intensity training creates EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), which sets your metabolism up to burn slightly more fat after exercise compared to endurance-type training—a boon if you’re looking to lose extra fat. Plus it’s time effective. If you can get the same or better benefit metabolically with shorter high intensity training, then the only reason to do the long slow stuff is if you don’t want to work that hard.
Consider that maybe you don’t need more “cardio,” but actually need to work harder. I’d argue that hard work will also make you stronger in non-physical ways. We throw something like “Murph” at you a few times each year since we know you secretly love it and it’s cool to see that you haven’t lost your ability to go that long in spite of all your gainz. If we programmed hero type WODs all the time however, we'd likely have an oft-injured population with a narrow scope of fitness. Time and intensity have an inverse relationship in that the longer you work, the lower the intensity must be. By intensity, I mean power output. I know a marathon can be an intense experience, but you’re not working as hard on those miles as you would be while doing 800m repeats. Furthermore, the longer you go, the more reps you’re going to be doing and the more fatigued you’ll be. You don’t move better on the 69th deadlift compared to the 9th, trust me. Remember: we’re programming for our general population to be fit for the long term—not to crush a week’s worth of hero WODs followed by six weeks of PT.
Cool Down: This portion is largely up to you, but you really don’t need us to babysit while you run, row an easy 1000 meters, or spend some quality time with a foam roller.
To wrap up, CFSBK’s programming is designed to give you the most training value. We do these things because they are effective, not because they are in vogue or even because our members demand that we do things a certain way. We’ve withstood a few silly fitness trends in favor of what science and experience says works and will continue to do so, evolving as we learn. Training here is hard, it’s consistent, and it isn’t always exciting or sexy, but it works. We’re lucky to have so many of you who seem to agree and are willing to put in the hard work!
- Come get mobile tonight with Coach Fox at 6:30pm for Active Recovery. Why do we run AR classes at CFSBK? Coach David wrote a whole article about it over on his blog, ITA. Check it out!
- Check out Pilates with KH at 7:30pm tonight, but remember that next week's session is canceled.
Chad Vaughn, 315 pound Clean and Jerk in Slow Motion CrossFit
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