How to embrace the “randomness” of CrossFit and why it’s an effective training program?

Why is there no structured program in CrossFit? Why don’t we follow any plans or have specific days for upper-body or lower-body? Why is the programming so “random”?

These are a few common questions I get from newbies to veterans alike. I thought I would address them all here so there is no confusion from anyone.

When people ask specific questions about programming, our gym follows a simple formula. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we dedicate 10-15 minutes to Olympic lifts (cleans and snatches) and core lifts such as squats, deadlifts, and presses. Tuesday and Thursday we program longer metabolic conditioning workouts with a mixture of “skill” work like learning how to walk on our hands or double unders. We generally follow the CrossFit methodologies of, “constantly varied, high intensity, interval training”. However, we also throw in 2-3 strength cycles throughout the year. One in Winter, one in Spring, and one in Fall and re-test past CrossFit workouts at least 2-3x a quarter. And that’s it in a nutshell.

Sounds simple enough, right? From the outside eye, our workouts are called “random” and “non-structured”. But if you were to join our gym for 1-2 months and were to come everyday, you would see a plan in place. Our plan is to build athletes who enjoy the process of working out and attach the fun to functional fitness. We want people to be able to move safely, and effectively but at the same time be able to perform most if not all exercises at any given time inside and outside of the gym. Our programming reflects that goal.

One of the biggest complaints we hear from CrossFit veterans is they don’t like a gym’s programming. If this is your main concern then you need to re-evaluate your personal goals. Are you training for a body-building contest that requires 3-5 days of specific hypertrophy movements? Or a power-lifting meet where you need to 1 rep max your back squat, deadlift, and bench press? Or an Olympic lifting meet where you need to clean/jerk or snatch your heaviest weight? Or an Ironman that requires several hours a day of swimming, running, and biking? If these are your goals, awesome! Go join a Golds Gym, Powerlifting gym, Olympic lifting gym, or find a personal Ironman coach. However, I personally think you can get it all at Boulder CrossFit.

I’ve followed 12 week back sqaut programs, done Olympic lifting meets in the past, and have run tons of races. Do they work? Yes, of course. If you train specifically around 1-2 movements, day in and day out you’re going to get better. But you know what sounds crazy? After 9 years of doing CrossFit, I’m still able to consistently hit within 85% of ALL my lifts. I’m still able to run within 10 seconds of my fastest PR mile time. And that’s without following a specific program or worrying so much about my split times or percentages every single day.

If you take the average powerlifter, olympic lifter, or ironman athlete and compare them to the average CrossFit athlete, I would guarantee you that the CrossFit athlete is much more well-rounded and would be able to perform any given task or workout thrown at them. Imagine an Ironman athlete who tries to clean and jerk their body weight for 30 reps. Their arms would snap. But a CrossFit athlete being able to run a 10k, swim 800m, and bike 20 plus miles? No problem. Or imagine an Olympic lifter or powerlifter trying to do 50 wallballs and 50 double unders for 3 rounds? Their lungs would collapse out of pure exhaustion. The point here isn’t to say these other training methodologies are worse or bad. The point is to say that CrossFit is the most effective training program for building well-rounded athletes who enjoy the process and have fun doing it with others around them.

Not only does this training methodology work in the long term but it’s fun. Trust me, back squatting for 30 minutes by yourself in your garage 3-4 days a week, is not:) But running 400m sprints combined with thrusters next to a high schooler or retired 60 years old is very fun! Next time you ask about the randomness of CrossFit, make sure you reflect on your own personal goals and then adjust accordingly.

Over the years, I’ve come to embrace and LOVE the semi-randomness that CrossFit follows. Give it a try. It’s less stressful and more fun in the long term!

-Zach T

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