Written by Alex Rees
By a training programme I mean one that you follow. Effectively someone else has broken down a series of daily movements and exercises into a micro training cycle, usually ranging between 1-3 hours of work. Focusing on improving athletes in a series of technical, conditioning and strength components.
Many athletes transition into outsourced programming when they can no longer find the time or consistency to attend the regular CrossFit classes. By following a programme they can still perform, improve and continue to enjoy there fitness endeavours. Other athletes often look into programming when they feel in order to progress further into the competitive CrossFit scene, they need to follow a more advanced programme. Both reasons are absolutely fine, but what’s not clear is what programme to follow or what programme is actually any good, this is where things turn a little muddy. Just Google searching the term CrossFit programme will probably provide 20,000,000 hits. The web is flooded with programmes, mediocre coaches and poor knowledge. Its a complicated beast and CrossFit can be a very challenging sport to programme for, with all the complexities and training domains, you will be hard pushed to find what you’re looking for and whats more, not get ripped off in the process. So here’s my advice when it come to searching for a programme, consider these two main things above all else:
Knowledge and experience.
Here is why you need both.
“The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein
Lots of knowledge, little experience.
Let’s take a recently passed uni graduate, holds a BSc or MSc honours degree in Strength and Conditioning, which has probably taken 3-5 years of continuous study to complete. They could tell you exactly what strength stimulus you are working, at what velocity and the correct load to obtain the greatest amount of force production for the biggest general adaptation. Professional sports teams would salivate at the qualifications of this individual. Unfortunately this guy/girl has no ability to get there point of view across, is often confusing to listen to and the athletes they coach are frustrated as they can’t understand what the coach is trying to explain. Meaning this coach will probably know exactly what you need to do, to get you really fit. They just can’t explain it and secondly they have no concept to how you are feeling and will find it hard to provide the right balance in offering an effective training plan. It basically comes down to lack of experience and little to no effective coaching or programming hours. Remember practice makes perfect.
Little knowledge, Lots of experience.
Now let’s take a CrossFit box coach. Now I don’t want to paint a broad brush over this, as this is completely made-up and self fabricated, but in fairness and from my own personal experience this guy/girl generally has completed a CF level One coaching qual, maybe a specialist CF qual and if you are really fortunate a CF level 2 or PT qual. All fantastic and great to have, but in reality all of them can be obtained over 1 or 2 days courses and even a PT level 3 can be obtained in 2-3 weeks. Now how far do you think following this coach can get you? Or better question, would any other professional sports team or individual hire them? The answer is no. Having said that, these guys are often brilliant operators and have a vast amounts of coaching hours and bags of experience from continuous learning and developing. Meaning they could probably get you fairly fit and they will also know when to push you harder or back off, from their own personal experience. But in reality your progress will be limited to only so far. Now this could be a semi sensible option for anyone that’s not looking to get to big competitions and just stay generally fit and healthy.
Lack of knowledge, lack of experience.
Umm, why is this person even programming. Blind leading the blind comes to mind. Think newbie Personal trainer and their 6 week shredded programme. Sigh…
So here’s the key word, balance.
Just because someone is a good athlete, doesn’t mean they know anything about training someone else. They maybe a hard worker and have all the technical moves down to a tee. Although this may help, programming for others is completely different to training as an athlete. Likewise, coaches who are qualed up to their eyeballs, doesn’t automatically place them as top coaches or mean they have the know-how when it comes to programming. They may have little experience in using that knowledge, and knowledge without the correct application, is worthless. Its like having drawn up the plans to build a house, but not having the knowledge to actually build it.
So to help you out, here is your top ten check list to look out for when choosing a suitable programme, everyone loves a checklist.
1. Do they even lift/train? Serious question, if they don’t even lift, how are they going to appreciate or understand anything you’re doing.
2. Do they compete? Not mandatory but it’s a worthy question, as results are often duplicated through other peoples experiences.
3. Do they communicate well? Whats the point in following a programme, if the coach doesn’t communicate and umm, provide feedback.
4. Do they coach often? You want someone who has racked up thousands of hours of coaching experience, which often equates to better programming.
5. Do they have any decent qualifications? You don’t have to be a qual snob but knowledge is important. Think UKSCA Accreditation or CF Level 2/3 as a minimum.
6. Do they understand anything about the Force/Velocity Curve is? In training terms this is extremely important. If they don’t, probably avoid.
7. Do they have any good peer/athlete reviews? Quite possibly the most powerful question. No likey, no lighty. Seriously, no reviews?
8. How much do they charge? If they are any good, they should be appropriately priced. If they are cheap, ask yourself why.
9. What is there current day job? You really want to make sure they do something in the fitness industry, who does this sort of thing daily.
10. Do they practice what they preach or at least use to? How can any respectable coach not. Eat clean, train regularly, hard worker etc.
So there you have it, a quick fire guide to finding a good programme and more importantly a good coach running it. Now if you are a coach who offers programming don’t get all uptight and offended. Why not look into the things that you could possibly do to become a better one.
Lastly, I have to say a great place to start when looking to follow a programme is CrossFit Invictus (crossfitinvictus.com) or Comp train (competitorstraining.co). Both offer free daily programmes and have a couple of options to match your training ability and aspirations. Once you get a feel for it and build a continuous habit of following a daily programme. Maybe look into a paid specific programme and this might hold the accountability and the intended results you are after.
Anyhow, best of luck.