Programming Philosophy


Ben Bergeron, CrossFit New England


I have created this site to help athletes train and compete in the sport of CrossFit.  I have competed in the Games twice and been lucky enough to coach some of the best athletes in our sport; Chris Spealer (six-time Games Athlete, 3rd place 2011), Becca Voigt (5-time Games Athlete, 3rd place 2011) Heather Bergeron (2-time Games Athlete, 8th place, 2010), Brian Curley (Master's Champion, 2010), Lisa Mikkelson (Master's Champion, 2012) and Team CrossFit New England (World Champions, 2011).  Coaching these athletes has allowed me some unique insights into the most efficient and effective training programs.  Here is some of the basics underlying themes that drive the programming on this site...

The Three-Headed Monster
Your goal is to become a three headed monster.   Top athletes in this sport have Strength, Skills and Conditioning.  Your goal is to be feeding (improving) all three heads at the same time - every month, every week, every day.  If you have a serious weakness in one (one head is smaller than the other two), feed it more till its as big as the others.

Conditioning - This is the "Sport of Fitness", and we define fitness as work capacity.  Do you have the conditioning and stamina to move quickly regardless how light or heavy the task is, and regardless of how long the effort may take.  Lots of dudes can do 10-20 Front Squats at 225#, but what happens when they need to rep out 225 front squats with their heart rate at 190?   

Strength - The sport of CrossFit rewards strong athletes.  The average 2013 Games Athletes have the following numbers (men/women):
Snatch:  259/153
Clean and Jerk:  319/187
Back Squat: 434/247
Dead Lift:  509/311
In fact at this year's games the CJ ladder was one of the most predictive events of final placing.  The top ten OVERALL male finishers averaged about 325# on the CJ ladder at the Games.  Places 11-20 in the overall standings averaged about 315.  Places 21-30 were about 313 and the bottom 15 or so places clean and jerked an average of 295.  In other words, assuming you have the conditioning and skills to make it to the games, the stronger you are the more likely you are to place well overall.  

Skills - Few aspects of the sport separate the good from the great more than their skills.  Work capacity and strength are certainly vital pieces to success, but it doesn't matter how strong you are (500# dead lift), how well conditioned you are (5:00 mile), or how many burpees and kettlebell swings you can do - if you can't do big sets of Muscle ups, HSPU, Pistols, Double unders, Butterfly pull ups, Handstand walking, etc...  If you can't do the high skill stuff you are going to be stopped in your tracks in a competition.  

From Three headed monster to 5-tool player...
Mobility - will help you move efficiently.  This is the name of the Game and will allow you to train with greater volume.

Mental Game - Are you a "Game-Day Athlete"?  Thriving under the bright lights.  Using the nerves and adrenaline to improve performance.  Focusing on what you can control and ignoring the noise.  Lots of athletes put up big numbers in their gym, but can't perform on the big stage.  This is a mental issue and it's something that needs to be worked on everyday - not just when you get to the big stage.  

Use the greatest champ our sport has ever seen (and may ever see), Rich Froning.  Rich is the best 5-tool players in the sport; strength, conditioning, skills, mobility and the mental strength to compete at anything, anywhere at any level.  This is what we are striving to build here.

Programming Templetes
GAMES
This is specific to the Athletes that have qualified for the Games, and thus will only be alive for the months, weeks and days between Regionals and the Games.  The focus of this training is to truly be prepared for the unknown and the unknowable.

REGIONALS
This programming is for athletes that are ultimately confident that they will qualify for Regionals.  These athletes should not be focusing on the Open, they should not be taking multiple attempts at Open WODs and should focusing and peaking for the Regionals.  The focus is on preparing athletes for the demands of Regional competition (loading, movements, volume, etc...).  Our goal here is to develop a 5 Tool Athlete. 
Monday
1.  Snatch, Heavy
2.  Clean Jerk, Heavy
3.  Squat  (front, high back, low back, safety, pause, box)
4.  Gymnastic Benchmark (Pull up, C2B, Strict Pull ups, Muscle ups, HSPU, PHSPU, Kipping PHSPu, TTB, Strict TTB, Ring Dips, Strict Ring Dips, Burpees, Pistols, static holds)
5.  Metcon

Tuesday
SESSION ONE:
1.  Bounding (BJ, Hurdles, Vertical Jumps, Broad Jumps)
2.  Pulls (Dead, Sumo Dead, Snatch Dead, Clean Pull, Snatch Pull, Good Morning)
3.  20 Rep Benchmark:  (Clean, Jerk, Snatch, Dead, Sumo, Bench, Push Press, Front Squat, Back Squat, OHS, Yoke Carry, Lunges –FR, BR, OH)
SESSION TWO:
1.  Metcon
2.  Rowing

Wednesday
Flexibility/Mobility work (Yoga, Foam Roll, stretch, mash, 10 min Squat, Stability work)
Active Recovery (hike, walk, row, kayak, ski, skate, paddle board, surf, etc… preferable out of the gym)

Thursday
1.  Snatch, Technique
2.  Clean Jerk, Technique
3.  Squat (front, high back, low back, safety, pause, box)
4.  Gymnastics Skills (HS Walking, Pistols, Muscle ups, Iron Cross, Front Lever, Back Lever, PHSPU, TTB, Strict TTB, Ring Dips, Strict Ring Dips, Double Unders, core work)
5.  Metcon

Friday
1.   Pulls (Dead, Sumo Dead, Snatch Dead, Clean Pull, Snatch Pull, Good Morning)
2.  Odd Lifts/Movements (Yoke, Ropes, Sandbags, Logs, Dummbells, Farmers Carry, Stones, Shovels, Tires, Sledgehammers, peg board, monkey bars, weight vests, etc...)
3.  Metcon
4.  Rowing
5. Core Work

Saturday
(One or Two Sessions)
1.  Track Session
2.  Barbell Benchmarks:  (Clean, Jerk, Snatch, Dead, Sumo, Bench, Push Press, Front Squat, Back Squat, OHS, Yoke Carry, Lunges –FR, BR, OH)
3.  Gymnastics/Metcon

Sunday
Rest Day – No gym, complete rest

Olympic Lifts:  We will be hitting variations of the Snatch and Clean and Jerking 2x/week; one heavy session and technique session.  The fast lifts are a cornerstone of CrossFit Competition.  It is almost a guarantee that some variation of a O-lift will appear in your next competition.  Be willing to spend time developing these lifts.

Squat:  You NEED to be squatting.  Every CrossFit athlete would benefit from getting stronger and there is no movement with great bang for the buck than the barbell squat.  We will be doing a squat variation, from heavy to moderate loading 3x/week.  Even with the squats in metcons, O-Lifts, and in the 20 rep tests this as a moderate amount of squat work.  You can tolerate this and it will turn you into a beast. 

20 Rep Benchmark:  We will be rotating through movements and testing a 20 rep max lifts twice per week.   20 reps is enough to ensure we are developing more than just maximal strength.  We are looking for strength endurance, stamina, and efficiency in our movements.   In addition, 20-reps, if done right, is enough to get yolked and see God. 

Pulls:  Your posterior chain is your engine.  Your hammy’s, glutes and spinal erectors are where all of our power come from.  If you want to develop these you best be pulling off the ground.  These movements are also excellent in developing midline stability, which is the foundation of all athletes regardless of sport.

Gymnastics:  We will have two targeted sessions for gymnastics every week.  One to benchmark, test and train our bodyweight movements and a second session to develop skills, balance and strength.

Bounding:  We are looking to develop explosive athletes.  These plyometric movements will increase your speed, O-lifts, balance, coordination, agility and make you a more powerful athlete.  Essentially they will make you a better athlete. Think of it this way, of all the tests at the NFL combine, the vertical jump test is the best indicator of success in the NFL (better than the 40-yard dash, pro-agility shuffle, bench press, and all others).

Metcon:  Live you life in well-designed couplets and triplets.  Throw in a chipper and single modality every now and again and you are fitter than 90% of comrades. 

Rowing:  The C2 is an amazingly efficient tool to build work capacity in athletes; both from a metabolic standpoint and the ability to tolerate volume without breaking them down.  If you want to be fitter – row more.

Flexibility/Mobility:   Still probably the most overlooked of the 10 components of fitness.  Mobility (think lacrosse balls, rollers, voodoo bands, etc..) is great, but don’t overlook the benefits of increasing range of motion from traditional stretching. 

Active Recovery:  Wednesdays are not “rest days”.  You will recover faster, perform better every other day of the week, build up tolerance to volume, and be a better all-around athlete by moving on your recovery day.  Doing something outside the box will get you more exposure and expand your margins of experience.

Core Work: While almost everything we do involves strengthening the midline, we will develop the stabilizers of the midline on Saturdays and during some of our gymnastics work on Mondays and Thursdays.

Rest Days:   Take a complete break, mentally and physically from training.  You need this to stay fresh, strong and healthy. 

A Word on Volume:  The regionals demand the ability to perform multiple max efforts in all time domains, loading and movements and have the ability.   Our training will prepare you for the demands of game day.

OPEN
This programming is for Athletes that hope to perform their best during the Open and hopefully earn themselves a spot at Regionals (or the Games for Masters).  The focus is on preparing athletes for the demands of The Open (loading, movements, volume, etc...)


Monday
Metcon
Oly Heavy
Strength

Tuesday
Metcon
Skills

Wednesday
Rest


Thursday

Metcon
Oly Techniqe
Strength

Friday
Metcon
Skills

Saturday
Metcon

Sunday
Rest

Metcon – The Open is first and foremost a test of work capacity.  How much work can you do in a given time.  100% of the events that have come up over the past three years have been a test of Metabolic Conditioning.  Our number one goal for this program is to build a huge engine.  Metcons will come first every training session as this is your primary focus.  These Metcons will focus on AMRAPs in the 4-20 minute time domain, and movements and loads that we have seen in the past and can expect in this year’s Open.  Running, Handstand walking, Monkey Bars, L-pull ups, GHD Sit ups, Rowing, Yokes, Ring Dips and the like are great movements to build GPP, but very unlikely to show up in The Open competition. 

Olympic Lifting – While the 1RM have yet to be tested in the Open, it almost always  pays to improve your O-Lifts.  Over the past three years, 36% of the movements programmed in to the Open WODs have been some variation of a Snatch, Clean or Jerk. 

Strength – You DON’T need to be super strong to do very well in The Open, but it sure helps to be able to move heavy weight for reps.  About 25% of the events have a moderate to heavy load (2012 Snatch Burpee, 2011 Snatch Ladder, 2010 Squat Clean Jerk AMRAP, OHS, and Cleans).  Getting stronger is important but NOT at the expense of losing fitness elsewhere.  In other words, do not do a strength cycle if your goal is to excel at The Open.

Skills – Based on previous Open Competitions it’s obviously important to be able to build your skills in certain movements; Box Jumps, Double Unders, Muscle ups, Toe to Bars and C2B Pull ups.  This is no guarantee that these are the movements we will see again, but based on what we know you would be a fool not to become a ninja at these movements.

A Word on Volume:  To excel at the Open you need the ability to perform one to two max effort sessions of 4-20 minutes per week.  This is a VERY low demand in regards to volume.  If you are training with high volume in hopes of excelling at Regionals your are missing the boat.  Instead focus on intensity and quality of training during you sessions.  

Training vs. Practice
It is important to understand what your limiting factors are and how best to improve them.  The protocol used to improve highly neurological movements like double unders, muscle ups and butterfly pull ups are very different from the highly organic movements like dead lifts, thrusters and strict pull ups.  


The most efficient way to train for neurological adaptations (agility, balance, coordination and accuracy)  is through "practice".  Practice implies working skills, timing, and movement patterns.  Practice shouldn't be done at max muscular or cardiovascular efforts.  Practice is best performed with lower hear rates, lower weights, and controlled environments.  


The most effective way to train for organic adaptations (cardio vascular endurance, strength, stamina and flexibility) is through "training."  Training implies working hard with high heart rates, heavier loads and maximizing intensity.  


It is important to distinguish the limiting factor of a given movement and use the limiting factor to determine the best training approach.  For example, if you are a bad runner, is that because you have no metabolic capacity?  If so, train by doing 800 repeats.  If you are a bad runner because your form sucks, running max effort 800's isn't going to help you nearly as much as doing adding POSE running skills and drills to improve your technique.  


I will do my part to give you my best programming and coaching, please do your part by posting to comments.