Had a great chat with one of my friends today who does programming and coaching for a good many Crossfit Regional and Games athletes. Our conversation centered on the necessity or ill-necessity of personalized programming templates down to the exercise, set, and rep. The question is does EVERY athlete need a program that looks different from every other athlete that is in theory “designed just for them?”
My first question would be where in ANY sport is that a reality? Does Julio Jones have a different amount of routes to run or balls to catch than Roddy White? Does Nelly Cruz need to catch more backwards running fly balls while David Murphy needs to catch more fly balls running forward? Has anyone noticed the entire MDUSA weightlifting team lifts off the same basic template? So if this is true for EVERY sport out there why would it be different for Crossfit? Cleans, Snatches, Front Squats, Sprints, and KB Swings are universally beneficial. Everyone needs to do them! How they are arranged and the exact loading should depend on the goal of the cycle and the phase of the season. The basic template for athlete development for Crossfit is pretty simple. Look at what part of the season they are in (off-season, preparatory, etc) and base their conditioning, lifting, and auxiliary work off the energy system being trained at that point. In the off-season EVERYONE needs to be gaining maximal strength and developing aerobic endurance. No exceptions to that rule. Can you ever be too strong for the sport? Can you ever have a 0ver-developed aerobic capacity?
That being said there are some things to be considered in programming differently for individuals. While I believe a basic lifting and strength cycle is widely-applicable basic common sense says that working out individual weaknesses is ALWAYS beneficial. If one of your competitors can’t efficiently kip the HSPU then technical and strength work specific for this skill is a must. If one of your athletes loses midline stability every time they do a front rack movement then clearly midline stability work needs to be a part of their programming. This is basic common sense. That’s no different than comparing Tiger Woods practicing his golf swing next to Rory Mcilroy. Are they both going to hit their driver some? Yep. Are they both going to chip and putt? Yep. Will Rory likely work on his short game more than Tiger? If he’s smart. Will Tiger spend more time on the putting green then Rory? If he EVER wants to win a Major Championship again. They both have basic skils and practice reps they have to hit to be good at the sport. However, as a part of their basic work they will always add weakness work specific to how they are currently playing.
The same reality is true of Crossfit programming. Everyone needs to do certain work. Strength gain is a must. However, if you are stringing 30 MU together in 2 min but can’t run a 400 m in under 3 min there might be some smart additional work to be done there.
My point is two-fold. If every coach out there created a different template and program for every one of their competitive athletes two things would happen:
1- The coach would never sleep
2- The athletes would get a watered-down, last minute program that has as much thought put into it as a baby puts into farting.
Secondly, a general strength and conditioning template has worked to develop athletes and competitors in every sport around the world for a century. Why would that differ for Crossfit athletes? You think Rich has some magical potion of genius programming and unknown strength template? Absolutely not! He’s a strength and conditioning coach. He uses what he knows and it’s pretty basic. (I’ve seen parts of it) Yes specific work has its place in development of skills and weaknesses. However, a different strength and conditioning template for every athlete in your program is a waste of time, not any more helpful than a general template, and quite honestly is an attempt by a coach to look smarter and more creative than they actually are. The world’s best athletes didn’t have a individualized program written just for them from the creative mind of their coach. Their coach used a basic template and created something that works. Be careful of anything else.