Program Design

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In our last article regarding the process of Individualized Training we reviewed key points in the assessment protocol. If you didn’t catch that one, you can read it here: The Assessment Process. You may be asking yourself, what happens after all those measures, movement screens, work tests, and conversation. Well, that’s where all the fun begins, as it’s now time to train. Based on all the information and data that was compiled during the assessment phase, your coach can now lay down a plan based on good training principles to get you moving towards your goals. While the plan will vary depending on what those goals may be, we’ll consider some aspects that make a general base for those interested in overall fitness and the sport of CrossFit.

The first one is BALANCE, and we’ll look at that in several ways. It’s very important that we address right to left balance within several movements. We need to ensure that you have close to equal capacity in single leg knee flexion and hip extension, and likewise with upper body pressing and pulling movements. We also want to look at antagonistic patterns, such as upper body pressing and pulling, and make sure that there’s good structure on one to support the other. For example, training may focus on scapular strength and stability to support a heavy bench press or to improve pull up ability. Balance across the different lifts is also important. At Aggressive, we have a set of guidelines of where every lift should be in comparison to the others. If, for example, the deadlift came out low compared to the back squat, then that program will prioritize lower body pulling, posterior chain control, and scap stability. Another way in which we look at balance, is within energy systems. Do you have good aerobic endurance across different time domains, or are you a more powerful person? Are you even strong enough to produce power? Again, your program design will establish priorities amongst these to provide just the right stimulus to address your fitness needs. This leads us to the next point, which is determining training dosage.

Contrary to popular belief, gains are not always achieved by doing more, and going harder. In fact, for a lot folks that is the exact opposite of what should be going on in training. Before looking for one rep maxes and crushing cleans and snatches, one must first develop the appropriate motor control throughout all phases of the movements. This means accumulating a TON of reps at slow tempo variations of each lift. Before even dreaming of butterflying through chest to bar pullups or stringing together muscle ups, one must have the ability to perform gymnastics in strict variations. Before being able to “throwdown” or “attack” different metcons, one must put in an immense amount of aerobic work at very slow paces and build that up across time to develop aerobic power. Training age, biological age, athletic background, history of injuries, lifestyle, current level of fitness, are a few of the characteristics that factor into the process of establish training dose and ensure that we’re getting the right response. Some need to be held back, others need to be pushed. The important thing to understand is that it’s not the same for everyone and it’s almost always not a matter of doing more or pushing harder. Training intensity is dictated by the speed at which exercises are performed or the loads which are applied. Every individual has their own sweet spot that will produce results and a good training program will balance volume and intensity to hit that spot.

The main idea of training, regardless of goals, is to improve. Whatever it is that we’re out to do, we all train to improve in something. Our assessment will provide insight that will be used when designing the program, and if it’s done correctly, there will be fitness gains and those must be taken into account. That’s why it’s so important to first of all, re-assess, but also to ensure good progressions within the design. Real coaching is all about purpose. We don’t just put exercises on a whiteboard and ask people to do them for “fun”. Everything that goes into a design has a reason for being there, based on what’s been done before and what we want to do next. As an individual gets fitter, the program evolves with that new found capacity to maintain the right stimulus that will keep yielding positive adaptation. Training needs to be viewed as a system. One thing leads to another, when one benchmark is reached it opens the door to other things, whether that may be new movements, more volume, or higher intensities.

Finally, no training program would be complete without the athlete’s feedback. All the assessments, information, and training principles in the world are worthless if we’re not tracking how the individual is responding to that training. We need to know what weights were used, how many reps were performed, how it felt, and whether the person is recovering from every workout. Communication between athlete and coach is crucial. The athlete must be efficient and compliant in providing that feedback, but the coach must provide an adequate platform for that communication to take place. At Aggressive we use Fitbot, an online software that provides this platform with fields for all types of data, video uploads, coach’s commentary, and benchmark tracking. Based on all this feedback our coaches can tweak the design on a week to week basis to ensure the individuality component and maintain the athlete on the right path.

As you can see, there’s quite a bit of considerations that are taken in each one of program designs. Starting point for training is highly dependent on each individual’s ability and the direction it takes is highly dependent on each individual’s adaptation. A competent coach should be able to put all of these pieces into play to keep things moving in the right direction. Don’t leave your fitness up to chance, if your goals are truly important to you, it’s time you talk to one of our coaches and start training with a purpose, YOUR purpose.

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