Recently in Workouts Category

Last month I received more inquires about my article than for any other article I've written for the CrossFit Journal. It was significant on several levels. For one thing, I enjoy discussions about dumbbell conditioning and am glad folks are finding the articles useful. It also confirmed my that CrossFit groups are expanding rapidly and that the CrossFit movement is reaching evening deeper into broad fitness circles.

The majority of people who wrote to me asked that I share some other large-group workouts that use dumbbells. As I say over and over in this column, the dumbbell is perfectly suited to the minimalist approach advocated by CrossFit. It is also ideal for both the new athlete and the seasoned veteran and is an excellent tool for those with limited funds and space.

The group workouts I offer have now taken on a life of their own. I'm frequently pulling in upward of 30 athletes in my 6:00am group. The more I say "Sorry, no more room," the greater the requests become. At the least, this has been an interesting sociology experience.

Before you spit up in your mouth or fly the bird at the page, thinking I'm honking my own coaching horn, let me explain. I tell you this because as this CrossFit culture grows, other trainers and affiliates will be faced with some dilemmas. Your groups will verge on the unmanageable. Trust me, they are coming.

As I have matured in this fitness coaching profession, I've learned that the simplest of movement combinations yield the greatest results. The Rutherford Postulate states, "As the group increases in size, the complexity of the workout diminishes." Unless you have associate trainers all around you, or a group of very experienced, well trained, and skilled athletes, it is difficult to coach complicated movements and unwise (and often impractical) to orchestrate a workout that involves five, six, or seven different exercises and/or pieces of equipment. For me, the dumbbell continues to be the tool of choice for these kinds of groups.

The CrossFit Total


There is room on this planet for another approach to testing absolute strength. And it apparently falls on my broad, hairy shoulders to announce the development of a different way to do it.

Coach Glassman discussed this with me recently, in a conversation about increasing CrossFit’s strength base. We have talked many times about the fact that people who come to CrossFit from a strength-training background tend to perform better in the key aspects of the program. When you’re stronger, metabolic conditioning is easier and endurance stuff (i.e., 5k or 10k runs) is about the same—and workouts like “Diane” (three rounds, at 21-15-9 reps, of 225-pound deadlifts and handstand push-ups) are just not possible without a considerable amount of strength. In essence, it is easier for a lifter to improve his or her time on “Diane” than it is for a runner to develop the ability even to finish the workout without scaling it back to a very light weight. So the conversation focused on a way to work more strength into the program while maintaining the CrossFit approach to it.

Fooling Around With Fran

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This month we examine “Fran,” one of our benchmark workouts. The opportunity this affords for insights into human performance, programming, and ways of measuring and motivating progress is strong.

First and foremost, Fran is a couplet of barbell thrusters (front squat/push-press combo) and pull-ups. More specifically, her structure is 21 thrusters followed by 21 pull-ups, then 15 thrusters followed by 15 pull-ups, and, finally, 9 thrusters followed by 9 pull-ups. We score the workout by time to completion. Our notation for this, and other similar workouts is, “Three rounds, 21-15- and 9 reps, for time, of 95-pound barbell thrusters and pull-ups.”

First exposure to this workout reveals Fran’s penchant for throwing a beating. Repeated exposures, where the goal is improved time, demonstrate a ferocity that speaks to the painful cost of elite fitness. Considering the thruster’s position as the most draining of all exercises and the pull-up’s reputation for winnowing athlete pools, there may be little surprise in Fran’s effects.

Coupled, the thruster and the pullup work all major muscle groups, are perfectly complementary in that each contains exactly what the other lacks, and constitute three superfunctional core movements–the squat, push press, and pull-up. But a closer analysis offers even greater appreciation and understanding of Fran’s character.

The New Girls

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In the September 2003 CrossFit Journal we introduced our first benchmark workouts - “The Girls”: Angie, Barbara, Chelsea, Diane, Elizabeth, and Fran. In the following months we introduced two more: Grace, and Helen.

These benchmark workouts serve to measure and benchmark your performance and improvements though repeated, irregular, appearances in the “Workout of the Day.”

This month we introduce six new beauties, Isabel, Jackie, Karen, Linda, Mary, and Nancy. You will certainly be seeing them in the lineup.

In the September 2003 issue of the CFJ we introduced six benchmark workouts to test performance and improvements through repeated, irregular appearances in the WOD. These workouts were given the names Angie, Barbara, Chelsea, Diane, Elizabeth, and Fran.

We figured these six workouts were as good as any to demonstrate our concept of scalability. Here we offer versions of those workouts that have been "tuned down" in intensity and had exercises substituted to accommodate any audience.

Team Workouts

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CrossFit may well be one of only a few grassroots movements in fitness history. On launching our website nearly 32 months ago we hoped that by posting daily workouts someone, somewhere, would find them, try them, discover their potency, come back, and ultimately, draw others to our concept. We’d hoped to start a revolution in fitness that might challenge the commercial model by bringing more efficacious fitness programming to the masses. The original plan required that we structure workouts so that any reasonably ingenious or ambitious individual might participate. We saw our workouts as incendiary agents cast to the wind. We knew that if CrossFit were to catch it would happen through the work of a number of individuals spread around the world. All this being so, our focus and design has largely been on the individual and his workout, not on the team or group and their needs.

We’ve been successful in spreading the CrossFit concept and we now work closely with many institutional clients; military and law enforcement, sports teams, and clubs where most of our Workouts of the Day (WOD) are not so readily applied to a team. Looking through the WODs, you’ll notice that many, if not most of them, do not lend themselves logistically to teamwork. Typically, the problem would be that to run, say, 10 individuals through a workout simultaneously might require ten rowers, ten ropes, and ten kettlebells on one day and ten sets of rings, ten squat racks, and ten glute-ham developers the next.

Benchmark Workouts

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Workout Design

The design and crafting of workouts is CrossFit's primary concern. Factors like impact, motivation, perception, recovery, and timing combine with decades of experience seasoned by luck and intuition to create our daily fare, the "Workout of the Day."

Though the process by which we engineer our workouts is largely rational, the finished product is often seemingly infused with qualities more commonly associated with art than exercise like symmetry, theme, or character. It is in this sense that we have in the past referred to "the choreography of exertion" in describing the best of workout design.

When everything goes right the finished product comes alive in a blend of elegance, simplicity, form, and impact. We are featuring six such workouts this month.

Interval Generator

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There are no bad intervals, only weak efforts. Variety and intensity will ultimately determine preparedness. Here is a scheme to give variance to your anaerobic work.

Intervals generated by this experiment will certainly be anaerobic yet are certain to pack a substantial aerobic punch. Play with these intervals before or after your regular workouts or on “rest” days.

Rowing ergometer times are dominated by heavier athletes. Check out the Concept II rankings for lightweight and heavyweights at every distance. Ergometer rowing is a heavyweight’s game!

The reasons for this are a complex blend of physics and physiology, and the influences differ from one type of ergometer to another and from shorter to longer distances. In fact, the science of rowing and ergometers gives ample opportunity to brush up on a lot of basic physiology, physics, and mathematics.

Tim Granger of Cambridge University has developed an algorithm that allows us to compare rowing scores at different weights. There are some inherent limitations, and Tim explains these on his site, but overall this is an excellent method to handicap rowing scores so that we can compare achievements.
For instance, using this algorithm we find that a 220-pound (100-kg) male with a 7-minute 2,000 meters equates to a 165-pound (75-kg) male rowing a 7:30 2,000 meters.


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