Periodization and CF…now this is something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a long time …. a long time..
As you may likely know, periodization as it relates to CF is a bit antithetical. but before we get in the sweet n juicy stuff, lets back up a bit. I want to clarify that there is a obvious difference between CF training for the competitive Crossfitter (Regional, Games) and the general population. If you know me, then you likely know what my views are on the general population and even other athletes of other sports (other than CF) using CF to improve their health, fitness, etc. The point of this post is to focus on CF training for the competitive CF athlete.
Alright, so CF and periodization are antithetical, but are they really? Well, lets define the sport of CF. Before you can begin to train any aspect of a sport or sporting movement, you must be able to know what it is you’re aiming to improve. What do we know more or less about CF?
Here are 3 things we know more or less about the sport of CF:
1. more or less chaotic programming (somewhat organized ..maybe some form of periodization of strength / read powerlifts-squat/deadlift/bench and periodization of power /read olympic lifts/derivs)
2. more or less constantly varied microcycles and even mesos as far as the temporal organization and training frequencies of specific and general exercises, as well as the means and methods used to develop specific biomotor abilities necessary for CF such as-muscle endurance (? more on this later), maximal strength, power, and my personal favorites…aerobic, lactic, and alactic energy systems…something CF and most in general seem varied confused by or simply just don’t know and understand, which is fine. Kind of. Not really. We will talk about it..and will become a more awesome coach or crossfitter or Superhero.
3. more or less high intensity, functional movements
That will be 5000 dollars.
What from the above is most important or perhaps the most tricky and difficult aspect of CF to improve? In my opinion. Which is likely worth nothing..it is #3. the high intensity, functional movements. Simply because there are SO MANY DAMN EXERCISES YOU ALL PERFORM!
This is tricky simply because the number of functional movements aka competitive exercises performed in a given WOD or competition is pretty insane. This, in my opinion, is where CF begins to fail a bit as a “sport” and especially as a sport that apparently produces the worlds greatest LOL
Being there are sooooooo many damn competitive exercises in CF, you would think the workouts would emphasize a good bit of skill development, and for the most part they do..kinda, sorta get that right..at least at first during the “OnRAMP” stage or beginning stage of box membership and during Skill development tiers of a session. What they primarily focus on is powerlifts and olympic lifts..again, strength and power..but not much on running, sprinting, jumping, gymnastics (more or less..read between the lines here) and especially not swimming, carrying heavy stuff, throwing heavy stuff, lactic acid tolerance and maintaining endurance with “high intensity”. As you likely know, the longer we do something intra-session, the more the form breaks down, but I am not going to get into the whole high rep oly lifts/powerlifts/met-con/bodyweight/gymnasticy complex, AMRAP, EMOM stuff, that’s not the point of my post..some of those means and methods can actually used properly and safely, but it takes a deeper understanding of periodization, programming, and planning to do so. Again, this post is simply on Periodization though, not programming and planning. For more info on this though, look up Yuri and Natalia Verkhoshansky’s work on the principle of “dynamic correspondence”.
So, simply put, there are tons of exercises being used in a ton of different formats with competing gas exchange intra-session/WOD…something very different from most sports…could you imagine a middle distance runner (800m-1500m) like a soccer player being made to play soccer, and then go pick up a heavy ass yoke or atlas stone or barbell and perform reps? No. I mean, just think about the running (not the ball play) and then expecting 100% effort/performance on the sprinting and 100% effort/performance on the lifting and jumping…it’s simply…not likely..humanly possible..but due to the public spectacle which the Games have become, we can see that it is…well, kinda somewhat possible..it’s just that we don’t see 100% effort/performance on most of everything. The running and sprinting and other stuff tends to be at times…sub-max effort, paced effort..which, if that’s what you need to do in order to do well in the sport..so be it..but it’s not like you’re gonna be out sprinting an Olympic hurdler anytime soon or out lifting Olympic Lifters anytime soon, but the crossfitter will likely out lift most soccer players and middle distance runners.
This is where periodization comes into play and this is why I feel the number of competition exercises and the intensities used with them is where some good ol periodization can come in handy for a CF athlete. Management of stress, biomotor development, recovery and how it fits into each phase is very useful to have…at least a baseline idea of how it will be periodized.
The way we develop our energy systems to improve gas exchange, tissue extensibility, tension, joint mobility, coordination, and every other biomotor is specific..specific in that it takes repeated training effects in the short term to cause an improvement in the organism’s functional system (muscle system, neural system, cardioresp system, skeletal, etc.) over the long term, and we do this via periodizaition. Optimally. More or less.
Modern periodization theory and practice has been expanded, refined, redefined year after year..coach by coach and sports scientist by sports scientist. This blog post aims to explain primarily.
1. The type of periodization / theory and practice I have used for Crossfitters
2. The outcome
Pretty simple. Here we go. Are you ready?
… “Where we’re going…you don’t need eyes..”
I made a program for an athlete that is competitive CF athlete.
Classification of ESD -aerobic, lactic, alactic.
Aerobic capacity and power (long effort)
Lactic capacity and power (moderate effort)
Alatic capacity and power (very short effort)
Compensation (aerobic capacity…modified duration)
for more on this, private message or simply purchase my mentor’s (Carlo A. Buzzichelli) book that explain it fully. “Periodization Training for Sports, 3rd Edition’ by Tudor Bompa, PH.D and Carlo A. Buzzichelli.
Energy system development (ESD) used linear / sequential integration. Meaning, we started with the easy stuff and progress to the harder and more specific stuff to CF in a linear fashion. Periodization of strength, power, muscle endurance is also shown, more on this below for the future. You’re very welcome.
Above you can see how we prioritized energy system development early over WODs (look at below chart for WOD frequency), but starting in March, ESD comes simply from WODs. During March, maximal strength and power development simply comes from WODs only, and lastly, in Feb/March aka Pre comp and competition, everything is being maintained while we are training most specific means and methods to CF..WODs.
The reason the GPP/SPP phases focus on development and put WODs on the back burner is simply because WODs kill glycogen and reserves necessary for development of biomotors.
QUICK NOTE ON: SKILL DEVELOPMENT
WODs in my opinion (especially extensive ones / benchmarks) should really only be used once in a while..preceded by a day off or a skill day and followed by a day off or compensation session. Get the idea? I do not recommend skill work after a WOD..especially the more extensive WODs. I might make an exception to this if the WOD is short and sweet..intensive nature..but even still, i would have to look at the force-effots and see if it’s causing any sort of competition to the skill work that might make it contraindicated.
Back to how I periodized the maximal strength, power and muscle endurance development. It’s simply step loading / pendulum integration…followed by maintenance and then solely from WODS. I really like step loading because it allows a lot of improvement in short term and a lot of practice. I also really like pendulum integration for speed/power sports and even some strength athletes that have a low tolerance to prolonged work in any one sort of regime.
and lastly, periodization of power and power endurance is also step-loading and pendulum integration.
Now, the outcome.
The client became extremely CF..fit. Meaning, he really improved his skill development, was conditioned and was able to tolerate lactic acid, recover and move fast with little drop off or need of a buffer (stopping during a exercise with load or on bodyweight/gymnastics exercises or airdyne/rower to recover) during WODs he could see others were dropping off during lactic dominant work, likely because he had improved lactic acid tolerance and also because we weren’t killing him with WODs. His skill, strength and power development improved quite well so far. Time will tell if this works 100%, but we shall see! Focus on periodization of all biomotors..including skill, WODs, strength/power/muscular, and ESD, and you’ll see you’re not as beat up and tired and you’re stronger and healthier.
There you have it! A work in progress. Next up I plan on using something I’ve been using with my powerlifters for a while which is a Block Training System…more on that later!
all graphics (except for the Obi Wan Kenobi one) were designed by McCary Training Systems, LLC.