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Volume Training for “Goats” by Brian Wilson - CrossFit Journal

In Coaching

February 14, 2011

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Brian Wilson explains how increased time and reps—not frequency—have helped eliminate weaknesses in athletes at Potomac CrossFit.

Much has been said about muscular endurance, modal capacity and training weaknesses in CrossFit. What I’d like to cover here is just one tool that might help athletes and coaches quickly improve a distinct weakness.

This training technique—called volume training—has been used in various forms; it is characterized by specific and repetitive training for a weakness.

It could be fielding ground balls with a backhand technique in baseball, shooting free throws in basketball, or pressing to handstand in gymnastics. The goal is to develop proprioception and endurance—defined as the ability to reproduce something many times over or at length—in that specific modal capacity.

Volume training can be performed for any human movement, but at Potomac CrossFit we have found that upper-body gymnastics movements (e.g., handstand push-ups, pull-ups, ring dips, push-ups, muscle-ups) see the greatest relative improvement with this method.

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61 Comments on “Volume Training for “Goats””


wrote …

Great article! I've been stubborn and have been working through a heel issue that just isn't improving (that 5k definitely didn't help) and this article struck a cord (no pun intended). I think I will use the next week or two to work some volume training into my routine on some movements that will not put stress on my heel. Thanks for a different angle!


Ben O'Grady wrote …

Brian, great article, thanks for contributing. My background is in competitive rowing, which is a high volume, high rep sport with an emphasis on technical perfection. Doing volume training is critical in that sport and we use it in a lot of different ways.

A weakness I have in crossfit are some of the more complicated Oly lifts. What I do, either on my warmup or post-WOD, is practice the lift with decreased load and pace. This allows me to focus on the technique and develop muscle memory for the movement. I monitor my heart rate and base my rest time on full recovery. I will also add weight and do sets at higher pace to build muscle memory at intensity.

I think we can go several steps further and train for specific WODs by doing more volume and changing the loads. I'm pretty weak on clean and jerk and doing 135 lbs is tough for me. So what I'm doing is putting together a specific plan to practice the movement at different volume, pace, and loads (including at and above 135 lbs) so that when it comes time to re-test Grace, I can set a new PR. There are several crossfit "test" WODs that I think can be trained in this way. Fran comes immediately to mind.


wrote …

Thanks for posting this guys.

I'd be interested to see how other boxes use this model and adjust it. This is something fairly new in our tool kit, but we've seen some pretty great results with it.

Something new we've been doing is knocking it down to 10-12 minutes and using it as a warmup along with a skill move and a core move. So a typical VT warmup would look like this:

Every minute on the minute for 12 minutes:
-4 Strict Pullups
-4 V-Situps
-4 Snatch Balance, 45/35

Obviously we scale down for any athlete that needs to (assisted pullups, PVC on snatch balance), but it's a good way to do a little bit of upperbody work and get warmed up at the same time.


Ryan Powell wrote …

Excellent article, I really like the idea of training your weaknesses for higher volume, but at a lower intensity so that you can really perfect your technique. Will definitely be incorporating more of this stuff into my training.


wrote …


Great article. I have read about volume programs like "grease the groove" from Pavels book "the Naked Warrior". But his approach is almost every day of the exercises. Thats great if you only do his workouts. But at crossfit we hit WODs almost every day. I have never found doing pullups, even at low intensity, every day along with WODs to work. But twice a week sounds much better.

If you were going to do volume for 2 exercises, (HSPU & Pistols), would you do them on the same day or diffrent days? Say HSPU on Monday/Thursday and Pistols Tuesday/Friday.


wrote …

Interesting article. I've tried somewhat similar approaches but never such a long, extended effort.

Do you have a formula for determining where to start the program -- e.g. basing either the starting set or the total volume on the athlete's current max reps?


wrote …


Thank you for writing this interesting article. I have way to many "GOATS" at the moment and have been thinking about a way to fix them for a long time. I'm going to try out volume training and see wich results it will bring.

I have one question I would like to ask. In the article you write:

"As the athlete progresses, our trainers have found that making the movement more difficult trumps additional reps. Timing will vary depending on the athlete.
Qualitatively, we determine if the athlete is now capable within the modal capacity. If so, we next want the athlete to become dominant."

At wich point you think its time for a athlete to make a switch to more difficult movements? For example, a athlete who uses volume training can only do the first session of volume training (with 1 rep every minute) on a given movement. For example, he can only do the first session of volume training with pull-ups or push-ups. When is it time to make the movement more difficult? When he reaches 5 reps on every minute? 6? 7? 8? I know you say "timing will vary depending on the athlete" but at wich point someone becomes capable within the modal capacity? At wich point are you dominant?

Already great thanks for writing the article and I'm definetly going to use volume training to tackle my GOATS.

Wesley Cloos


wrote …

Great article Brian! I tweeked my shoulder doing OHS and HSPUs have been a beast ever since. I needed an organized way to rebuild. Thanks brotha!


wrote …

This article is weak, at best.

First, I don't think you understand the definition of 'modal'.

Second, this concept is contrary to one of CrossFit's central themes (high intensity).

Third, your athletes improved because they are novices. Every program works for novices. Rapid improvement is basically the key feature in identifying a novice. If they aren't novices overall, they likely are a novice in that movement.

Fourth, the handstand pushup pic on the first page is ugly. Look at those backs. And elbows! Oh my! (I don't think the author's choose the pics in the CFJ, but as a first impression, that doesn't help my opinion. The photo on page 2 helps though...)

Learning to do a move hardly counts as "volume training". Either you can or you can't link consecutive double unders or pistols, etc. Why would doing them slowly for twenty minutes work better than "Do as many as you can in 20 minutes".

You could also have just said "Learn new movements. Know your limits, do not over train."


replied to comment from Matt Solomon

"Mind like parachute, must be open to work".

Personally I think it is really refreshing to see boxes playing with concepts like this and seeing great results. Kudos to you guys there at Potomac Crossfit.

Scott Spencer was right in saying that the Russians have played with this concept for years, and it works. Pavel Tsatsouline has written extensively about it.

If practicing a skill at lower than maximal intensity can improve your performance at higher intensities then is this contrary to CrossFit's principles? So should we oust the Burgener warm up then?

"Why would doing them slowly for twenty minutes work better than "Do as many as you can in 20 minutes"" - because strength (esp in technical bodyweight movements like the HSPU) is a skill and when you thrash yourself to try and do as many as you can in x minutes, you are no longer training the nervous system to do the SKILL, you are just thrashing yourself. Getting a good metabolic "workout" maybe, but not optimally training the nervous system to perform the movement efficiently.

Oh and you are correct in saying that authors don't choose the photos in the CFJ so don't blame Brian for that.


replied to comment from Matt Solomon

So a guy who owns an affiliate and is obviously committed to helping people improve throws an idea out there and your constructive response is to call it weak?
Then you suggest that the Naval Academy engineering grad doesn't understand modal?
Then you suggest that intensity has no link to the basic ability to first perform the movement?
Etc, etc, etc.
I'll tell you what: Give people a choice between his attitude toward training and yours and they will take his everytime.


Joseph Alexander wrote …

This is excellent stuff. I really enjoy the working wounded concept you guys have for your injured athletes. We always close the L1 seminars encouraging the members of the community to write an article or send in a video if they stumble into something that works well. This article is a testament of the great, creative tactics that come from the community. I will definitely pass this on. Heck, I will be implementing this into my training myself for pistol squats Thanks for sharing Brian.


replied to comment from Ken Smithmier


You obviously are completely aware of what I own, who I am committed to helping, and my attitudes...and you claim that I suggested no link between intensity and basic skills to perform a movement. Joseph Bell would be proud.

I am saying that intensity has everything to do it. Constant varied, functional moves at HIGH INTENSITY. CF espouses the idea that you can go hard and fast and still have the ability to go long and slow. You know, how your 5 or 10km run time should be improving despite doing them 4 or 5 times a year. 'Tabata' this! Or read the original CFJ pieces.

The author even says "when reintroduced to a traditional CrossFit WOD". He declared the difference.


I also think it's really refreshing to see boxes. Pavel's idea of greasing the groove was more like hanging a pullup bar on a door way to your bedroom. Everytime you walk by, you do a set. All day, every day. Instead of coffee breaks, you take pull up breaks. Etc. 23 reps in 20 minutes is not his plan. Nor is it volume training as it is traditionally described. It's just some beginner learning a skill.

All of a sudden you're calling HSPU "technical". That's a stretch. And "strength is a skill", ummm? What? Strength is strength. Either you are strong enough or you aren't. The movement pattern can be learned, but in essence you just push.

The author included a 5 session training log. It is incumbent upon him to prove that doing 23 reps in 20 minutes and then 32 reps in 20 minutes was MORE USEFUL than doing 23 reps in 19 minutes (or fewer). If that athlete had of done those equal reps as fast as possible, CF Theory states that his improvement would have been greater. (Or more reps in the same time...)

The fact that they got such positive results is because, as I said earlier, they are beginners. But going from 23 reps to 50 with only three training sessions in between is impossible for the elite. Partly because 23 is not a lot of reps, and partly because the improvement is so large.


wrote …

@Scott Spencer - Joshua Newman at CFNYC actually emailed me the same thing, I'll have to check that out, I never heard of it prior.

Like I said in the article, this was me just remembering the USMC Recon Ron program the wrong way. That's an every day program, and I think there's good results from that. Just google.

For upperbody/lowerbody Goats, doing them at the same time is totally doable. So something like:

Every minute on the minute for 15-20 minutes:

4 Pistols


@Wesley Cloos - great question. This was something I wanted to get into within the article, but because of space, was just too tough.

With the different modalities involved (Am I using the right word now? Somebody check me - Matt Soloman, where are you when I need you!) you're going to have different thresholds.

For HSPU, if you're getting 50-60 reps in 20 minutes, then it's time to take it down to 8-12 minutes and get on the parallettes. You don't have to go down to shoulder even with the parallette, but just getting an extra inch of depth will improve your standard HSPU dramatically.

Then work your way down on depth and up in volume, again paying attention to joint issues.

Some general guidelines for other movements would be, within 20 minutes:

Ring Dips: 60-70 (these are strict)
Muscle Ups: 30-40 (these are strict)
Pullups: 60-70
Pushups: 80-100

@Robert Wilson - good to hear from you mano!

Being big sucks, but I am now moderately passable at HSPU as opposed to my previous 16 minute Dianne. Give it a shot.


@Tony Webster - thanks, good summary of what I'm talking about. I did pick the photos.


@Ken Smithmeir - don't be too sure Ken, I went Marines after USNA. My first draft of the article was just "HSPU stupid, me no like." Had to build it up a lot from there to get it published.


wrote …

@Matt Soloman - Good question on my data. I'm assuming it's a question, as an assumption that a) I only used novices, or b) that this method doesn't work, is coming to conclusions without data or testing respectively. And you certainly don't sound like a guy that just gets on message boards and spouts rhetoric while having no clue what he's talking about.

My cohort included:

-One 2009 Crossfit Games Competitor
-Three 2010 Regional Crossfit Games Competitor
-300 Athletes ranging from novice to five year Crossfitters

I'd suggest you just test the proposal. Do a 1 Set Max of HSPU, perform two HSPU Volume Training Sessions per week for four weeks, do another 1 Set Max HSPU. Note if there is improvement. Post to comments.

Or you could do Dianne, follow the same Volume Training Protocal, then do Dianne again. Note any delta in time.

If the former proves untrue, my model is wrong. If the latter shows improvement your model is wrong.

Let's test and see what happens.


wrote …

@ Matt --

I'd have to take issue with the idea that only a novice can get stuck on movements like these. I've been using CF in one form or another (currently Coach Rut's programming) for more than seven years, but no matter what program I follow my strict pull-ups remain stuck in the 10-12 rep range.

The Recon Ron program works up to that point but then I hit a wall. I'm sure it's a great program for the average 22-year old stud on his way to OCS, but not so great for a 45-year-old family man.

Pavel's approach has worked for me in the past but recovery becomes a challenge. I did one of his push-up programs, for example, and nearly doubled my push-ups in 2 weeks by doing sets at frequent intervals throughout the day, wherever I was -- the office, the sidewalk outside Home Depot, etc. But my shoulders were pretty creaky by the end of that time and the gains fell away quickly.

My suspicion is that Brian's approach may be more productive and sustainable, especially for an older athlete who's tried everything else. I'm going to give it a four-week trial and see what happens.

@ Brian --

So if I'm at 11 reps, would it make sense to start with sets of 3-4, work up from there, and then add weight when the volume exceeds 70 reps?


@ Matt Solomon -

You clearly fail to realize the different between working on your "Goats" and the WOD.


wrote …

Certainly a great idea! Any "program" that has athletes working on their weaknesses in a logical, well thought out (managing volume) manner is going to benefit from a template like this - whether newbie or seasoned. Thanks for your efforts!


wrote …

Certainly a great idea! Any "program" that has athletes working on their weaknesses in a logical, well thought out (managing volume) manner is going to benefit from a template like this - whether newbie or seasoned. Thanks for your efforts!


Dustin Kreidler wrote …

I would be way more concerned about the constant negative feedback from certain corners of the CF universe if it weren't for the awesome positive feedback from the rest of the community. Crapping on something that works... as a WARM-UP. I don't remember reading ANYWHERE in the extensive CF literature that ANY warm-up should ever be a 20m AMRAP... seems like someone might have either missed the entire point of the article, or perhaps the point of CrossFit's 'World Class Fitness in 100 Words.' I'll quote it for you:

■ Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean,
squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly,
master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups,
dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to
handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds.

Did you see it in there? The important words are *practice*, *train*, and *master.* To do any of those three things is to do it slowly and in control, to build to bigger and better things. If you can't do a handstand push-up with good form, you should do which? a) practice it slowly with PERFECT form, or b) practice it at full speed, with NO focus on form, thereby PRACTICING and MASTERING terrible form?! I'd sooner a n00b (or a master, fixing form issues) spend months learning it so they can do it PERFECTLY before subjecting them to an AMRAP involving that move, than screw them up by adding the intensity too early. FORM - CONSISTENCY - INTENSITY. There is a *REASON* those are presented in that order. Just sayin'...


replied to comment from brian wilson


What you are now describing is just doing strength work before a met con. Going deeper on the parallettes only requires more strength. Which is not 'volume training'.

Training leads to improvement. Crossfit is sold on the idea that it creates a bigger improvement than other programs.

Doing your idea (1 set max of HSPU, 4 weeks of 2 sessions, then 1 set max) WILL work. The question is will it work better? Get Chris Spealer to do it. Note his improvement. I bet it's not a nearly 130% increase over the 20 minute sessions.

The idea to test it against is have some do the 1 set max of HSPU. Then have them do 4 weeks of 2 sessions of max HSPU in 20 minutes. Then at the end a 1 set max. Your argument is that doing fewer reps slowly over the same time will elicit a bigger training response. Mine is that it will not.

But if you train any move for 4 weeks, you better get some improvement. But how do we get the MOST improvement?

On the positive side of things, your words convinced Dustin that you have one bad ass "warm up", despite not calling it a warmup and even suggesting that, at times, its best to do post workout. He's also convinced these reps are done with 'perfect' form, despite that photo on page 1! Ahhhh its blinding. Amongst his rambling, he also seems to be missing the point I just described.

I don't care who your trainees are. Imagine being the Coach lucky enough to teach Froning how to rope climb.

No one takes fewer free throws to train.


Excellent point about Brian Wilson NOT calling this a warm-up, I'll grant you that. I had my own warm-up needs on my brain when I typed that, so that starts and ends with me. (That said, overhead squats and double-unders DO make for a great warm-up!) I still maintain that if something is your goat, taking the time to improve your fundamental grasp of the FORM - leading to CONSISTENCY of performance - will improve your overall INTENSITY in the long run.

Imagine if Froning had HAD a good coach telling him to get his crazy flailing monkey ass off the ropes and learn how to climb them CORRECTLY before the games. You might have seen a different ending. Instead, he very speedily and inefficiently burned himself out. Thanks for the example, but I'm going to go ahead and rest my case on that one, too. ;)

Also, taking an infinite number of sh***y free-throws just teaches you how to throw sh***y free-throws. If you need to work on form-specific bits of it (and again, stop whining about the picture, we've already established that they have NOTHING to do with the article, and were NOT chosen by Wilson), you work them slowly and accurately. And yes, once you can do it well, you start doing it more, but making sure you are still doing it perfectly. You know who probably practiced a crap-ton of terrible free-throws early in his career? Shaq. Terrible form, terrible percentage. Over the years, better form, better percentage. Do you think he learned how to shoot them just by doing what he was doing WRONG over and over and over again?!


wrote …


No one trains by taking fewer free throws. No one trains by taking as many free throws as possible in 20 minutes, either.

I've done "on the minute" workouts (usually dumbbell complexes) in Coach Rut's programming and find they can be metabolically taxing, while at the same time allowing a high volume of work to be done -- and with far better form than attempting to blast through everything for time.

You've correctly suggested that the best way to evaluate the merits of Brian's program is to have someone do it with a movement that's been a "goat" for him. Aside from the fact that Brian's already had athletes use it successfully, I hereby volunteer to do just that. Strict pull-ups, twice weekly for four weeks, starting Thursday. Will post results on or around St. Paddy's ...


replied to comment from Dustin Kreidler


You are arguing that weaknesses should be worked on. I have no problem with that. Learning a movement isn't volume training though.

Ummm, I was the one that thought he didn't pick the photos. Turns out he did...

Maybe you should change that warm up!


wrote …

This works I've done it for pullups and went from 10 to 25 strict. And a few friends have found good success as well. I am about to start this working on HSPU. Will see how it works


replied to comment from John Frazer

Doing as many reps as possible in a set amount of time does not mean you have to sprint out of the gates. In fact, for a 20 minute window, it would not be suggested.

Speal did something like 36-37 rounds of Cindy. I'm guessing he had to nearly sprint out of the gates for that, but he's not normal. Although in all honesty, if it took 20 minutes he wasn't sprinting. He was going faster than everyone else, but not at his top speed.

You don't run 5k at your 100meter pace. You also shouldn't expect to get an amazing 5k run time by regularly churning out 30 minute times.

Why change the theory for this??

Happy training. I hope you get out of that rut and knock off 20 or 25 dead hangs, regardless of your method.


wrote …

love the article! I sure will be trying this on some of my goats and my clients to see what happens.

So much I could say to matt.... doesn't look as if he willing to listen though.


wrote …

Good article! I like your name...


Ben Frazer wrote …

Great article. When I trained with Mark Twight in Salt Lake he used a pyramid style workout to increase volume. It works best with a partner.

Take pull-ups for example: do one pull up, then partner does one, then two, two, three, three. Continue to only 4-6 reps and then restart.

As you spoke about its making sure that failure is never reached.

You can also do this style by yourself by walking a set distance. The rest period changes for 1-3reps, too long. but its not enough for 4-6 reps, too short.

I have an athlete training twice a day at the moment. He does the WOD in the morning and then comes back for skills in the afternoon. We've used this method to increase a majority of his gymnastics movements. And in three months he went from having no pull-up or handstand to being able to get 15/10 out unbroken. Still a little more to go, but massive improvement non the less.


wrote …

Excellent article Brian! I have a number of goats to work on, but one in particular is hand stand push ups. I can't do one yet, but am getting close.

What would you recommend? DB presses? Negatives? Negatives with 2-45 lb plates to get greater depth? Reps?

To make the best use of time, I thought I would add in some leg work, either goblet squats or [assisted] pistols. Thougths? I'm assuming I can do both in the same 20 minutes.

What days are best? You mentioned after strength days but before met cons, but we have a metcon at just about every wod?

Fletch? Really?


wrote …

Brian, thank you for your article!

Its great to be reminded of different approaches to working on weaknesses.

Appreciate your time and effort in putting your experiences on the Journal.

Warm regards



Rick, have you tried HSPU with your legs bent down on a box? That's the normal progression we use at our gym. Also, if you're able to get in the HSPU position against a wall, how about having a partner spot you through a couple of reps.


wrote …

Thank You Very Much for the article-Our affiliate will try this starting next week! Very excited to try it and thanks again!


wrote …

@Rick Bosl - Negatives to depth sound good. If you can get two per minute for 10 minutes that's a good start. Add minutes as you add capacity. Go super slow through that bottom part.

Pistol work along with this sounds like a good option to me.

You can do this anytime you have a wall - I'd do it as a standalone session.

"Hey that's you and Tommy Lasorda... [smashes picture] I hate Tommy Lasorda."


replied to comment from Matt Solomon

Strength is a skill.
Neurosynaptic facilitation and friends. Google it.
The way to get better at a goat is not to flail at it in a WOD.
It's to practice it when fresh.
This article is spot on and you are unfortunately way off base.


wrote …

This article reiterated something we were already doing on gymnastic skills.
For gymnastic strength pre-WOD we may do a 10x2, 10x3 or 5x5 etc. Adding in on the minute every minute helps to control a class and help them change scaling in the downtime if they need to go harder or easier for skill/strength development purposes.

May be a complete coincidence in timing with the article but we had two coaches and a member all hit first muscle ups today on a 10x3 ring pullups day. Since most versions of a ring pullup at 3 were too easy for these 3 people we stepped it up to muscle ups for them and bang they hit them. We have been revolving gymnastic & weightlifting strength/volume/technique days for 3 and a half months now. It is not a coincidence that we are getting these improvements from a varied but structured practice plan.

We then change exercises, go to our appropriate Metcon scaling and do things for intensity. All CrossFitters know intensity is required for high work output and greater fitness. However technique is first honed, refined and improved on in structured practice. This template looks to be on track as an effective tool to help this happen. Brian didn't state it is perfect; condense it, tweak it, play with it and see how it can help you control classes doing structured practice. Good work Brian.


wrote …

Brian, dude, brother, tell me you didn't pick the image that goes with the article?! I know ya, I love ya like a brother from another mother and you know I'm a dick about this kinda stuff, but into my third decade nerding out about human movement I've lost the filter between brain and mouth. But you already know this, from personal experience of me being a loud mouth ;-). SO here goes:

As much as I like the article, and I really do, you could get each and every one of the althletes in that image a better HSPU and more HSPUs by cleaning up their broken form.

All but for one appear to have their hand placement entirely too far apart, three of the four have their mid-line in a position of hyper-extension rather than 'hollow' (hence the reason we do hollow rocks, to train to NOT be in that position). Can I make an immediate suggestion to fix them in one swoop? Turn the image upside down. Would you let them press overhead looking like that? I know you wouldn't, so why let them HSPU like that? Same hand spacing, same lumbo-pelvic-hip position, same head-through, same overall 'hard contraction' over their entire frame, even same relative foot distance apart as a press overhead and they will crush their HSPU's not only faster but with far less impact and thereby greater volume IMMEDIATELY without any need for increased contractile strength. The poor dude at the stern looks like he's about to either herniate a disk or have an aneurysm or both. Literally turn the image upside down and tell me how it looks to you...

Hmmmm.. what else, as long as I'm being a prick... oh, Forced Negatives: never more than three at any given sitting if there are no full ROM movements in their quiver. Rick: you dont have an HSPU? Keep your Negs to three or less AFTER you fight like your in the presence of death for a solid rep and AFTER you do static holds at you point of failure. IE: find where your movement fails and hold that position until failure ( a pad under your noggin might prove 'more good' in that situation). 20 negatives will fry his neurosynaptic connections like bacon in too hot a pan. If you do have full ROM movements, try and keep the Negs to 15% or less of the total reps of the completion set. You have 6 HSPUs as your last unbroken set? only one or two negs allowed. If you break the connection between what the brain can effectively tell the muscle pattern what to do and stay in form, it's broken and can take DAYS to repair itself. CNS crispyness on something like Deadlift singles can take more than a week to repair! (hint: why do Louis S. and co NEVER pull singles except at a competition? so they can train more fequently and there by get more PRs, but I digress...)

You and I have talked about ReconRon in the past: progressing aggregate load over sub-maximal volume, or more plainly, get more done over the course of a whole day while never going to failure increases the ability to CONTROL more load in each individual set over the long haul... hmmmm... but we know failure causes the forced adaptation response in contractile strenth, right? Well then, do both!

If your HSPU volume sucks, do some every day for warmup, do some at cool down (obvious limititations apply) then do a 'few', ala recon ron, throughout the day. Once ever 4-5 days drop the program and do the last set to failure with 10-15% forced negatives and don't pick up the RR program until recovery (24-36 hours later?).

What the hell, give it a shot. I'll certainly be trying your method starting today.

In the words of Zorba, "Two equally steep yet bold paths may lead to the same peak."

oh, and it's been far to long since I mentioned how good you look in a blue velour suit, ya pimp!


wrote …

So many of these comments re-iterate my point.

First muscle up? Trouble cleaning 135? Zero HSPU? Practice for a beginner is not volume training.

I understand that everyone is at their own level. I understand the importance of scaling. But practicing or learning a movement is one thing, and volume training is another.

Being able to do the movement a decent number of times is a prerequisite for doing a lot of something. The majority of these examples are people that simply lack the required strength.

You don't just get to make names or make up definitions to already used terms. Where are the CFJ editing standards?

I feel like Gus Haynes from Season 5 of The Wire.


replied to comment from Matt Solomon

@ Matt:

"Being able to do the movement a decent number of times is a prerequisite for doing a lot of something."

I don't think anyone can argue with that. :)

Seriously, I think Brian's suggestion is intended for athletes who can do something decentLY (emphasis added) a small number of times, but want to be able to do it a lot of times. You mentioned the need to pace and doing things on the minute is a way to accomplish that. Swimmers and runners have done it since a million years Before Crossfit.


wrote …

"Mechanics, consistency, then intensity." I think that's been said before in CrossFit. Sounds to me like author found a way to help his athletes develop in this fashion.

It seems strange to me to argue with trying something that has proved useful in practice by theoretical argument. It's one thing to say "Have you compared your method with method B?", and another to say "your method is not theoretically congruent."

The real value added would be to say "I have also had success with several clients doing Method B, here's my data, it appears to work better."

Chef, I'd like to come hang around in your gym sometime and soak up what is obviously too much information in your rotund brain housing group.

I doubt Coach developed CrossFit by being unwilling to experiment. I take CrossFit's principles as tools which were validated by some very impressive results, but not as a limit on what a coach should experiment with. The CFJ publishes, deliberately, articles from those, like Bill Starr, who do things differently than CF would. It is inevitable that experimentation across a very wide scope and scale will find techniques that work better. Folks will often find that they learn what CF already had learned and incorporated, and that's good too.

Chef, love the quote from Zorba, have often heard and used it, now I know the source!


wrote …

@Chef - agree with Paul, my brain housing group has overloaded. As to the picture and form, that's a great learning point for me about how to write an article.

The pic is from the 4th or 5th Round of "The Seven". So the form deterioration is (somewhat) based on that. These guys aren't doing Volume Training or skill work. Like I said though, good point to remember for better congruency in future articles.

Also, appreciate the input on negatives. I usually stay pretty low on these (the guidance to Rick was "work up to 20 in 10 minutes"). I haven't seen a lot of problem with this volume, but definitely agree most of the money is made in the first few sets. I will tweak that down and see how folks respond.

@Paul Eich - yes, this article was mainly written for the meaty part of the curve. For folks with 30 unbroken HSPU, I'd have them do more skill work on rings and parallettes. For folks with no HSPU, I'd have them working on being inverted, working on general upperbody strength, then getting into static holds and negatives.

If your athletes are in the meaty part of the curve, this will get them higher up the curve.


wrote …

Thanks Brian, I look forward to this, seems like the right Rx to get back my HSPU and add DH MU and pistols.


wrote …


If I was going to do volume training for HSPU and ring- dips, how should I go about programming it? Do 1 session for HSPU and and 1 session for ring-dips each week, or 2 sessions of HSPU one week and then 2 sessions of Ring-Dips the following week and so on.



wrote …

Why not do two sessions of 5x5 HSPU? Or two sessions of 4 x 10 ring dips? Or does this just become an average, dare I say it, "bodybuilding" workout? This is just unfolding more and more into basic strength work or practicing a skill.

You can't argue form and consistency but excuse it late during a hard workout. Getting people with no HSPU to work on being inverted??

And you're opposed to switching exercises too often, so it's a stretch to say constantly varied.

At least the moves are good. 1 out of 3!

As an aside, you're obviously adjusting the workouts to your athlete's levels and getting them to work on their weaknesses. This is good. They are, according to you, improving. This is better. I just think your article is questionable.


Brandon Nugent wrote …

Thanks for the article Brian!

I just spent the last week of evenings (before bed) practicing my sets of 5.

Measuring time and number of reps, I went from a meager set of 12 head-to-ground (using a wall for support) reps in 8 minutes on day 1 to 24 reps (cumulative) in 6 minutes tonight.

Thanks for posting this!


wrote …

Love this article. It hits home personally and professionally. We have a group of 16 police aides (paid interns) that can do a total of 3 pull-ups between them. Do you suggest using bands to implement this program or am I better off starting with the flexed arm hang?

I seem to be stuck at about 12 dead hang pullups and would like to implement this myself. My question revolves around rest. Can i do this a day after or a day before a WOD that is pullup centric? Could I program this in as an active rest day?


wrote …

Peter, at those kind of numbers, flexed arm hang is the way to go. I'd start them out with these 3-5 days per week depending on diet and sleep.

If you've got guys that are diet and sleep compliant they should be able to do a basic template five days per week, but that template would be a Recon Ron template not a Volume Training template.

Have them try five sets of flexed arm hangs at slowly descending times.

Set Time
1 10s
2 8s
3 8s
4 6s
5 6s

Rest approx 30s between sets. Slowly add time and sets as they get stronger. If you do this for 3-4 weeks, they should be able to start a Recon Ron pullup program. Once they can get 8 pullups, they should be able to hit Volume Training at the 15 minute time domain and see good progress.

Let me know if you have more questions.


wrote …

Brian - I like one session of each exercise per week.


wrote …

Got this questions from Peter and wanted to put it on here:

I recently came across an article "Volume training for goats". My question is once you establish a max for an exercise like kipping or chest to bar pull-ups (just to name 2 exercises) how do you decide the total reps for your first session? Also what are the most amount of reps you recommend per set of the 20 min cycle? In your example you show 3 as the most on session 5.
My goal is to increase chest to bar pull-ups and ring dips-not in the same session of course. I also plan on adding a lower body movement like squat cleans or powerclean and jerks. Do you recommend I alternate them within the same minute?

Your suggestions are greatly appreciated.



1) How to determine starting sets. Rule of thumb that we use to start out is that you want your total reps in the VT session to be about twice your 1 Set Max. Increase from there.

2) Alternating Movements. I see a problem with this with Chest-to-Bar pullups, unless you are doing them strict. The CTB pullup makes use of a large hip drive, which will necessarily diminish if you are adding cleans or jerks. A strict Ring Dip combined with a clean shouldn't be a problem. However a Ring Dip with a Jerk wouldn't be recommended as your Ring Dip will tire out faster.

Hope that answers your question!


replied to comment from brian wilson

Brian, Thanks for the advice. Couple of other questions. Can I alternate push-ups on the days they aren't doing pullups or just one goat at a time.

For myself, I seem to be stuck at about 12 dead hang pullups and would like to implement this myself. My question revolves around rest. Can i do this a day after or a day before a WOD that is pullup centric? Could I program this in as an active rest day?


wrote …

Peter - that depends on a lot of things, but I'd say start with a basic template and go from there. The basic template for a pullup and pushup goat issue would be one day per week Pullup VT and one day per week Pushup VT.

Neither will improve as much as doing one exercise alone for several weeks, but they both should improve.

WRT putting a Pullup VT the day before or after a Pullup-centric WOD: before will probably work depending on your ability to recover. After probably not.

Yes, you could do this on a rest day.


wrote …

This training method works, no doubt in my mind. I have used it to improve my HSPU on and off for the past few months. I used the method on paralettes. My max reps have only gone up by about 4, from 18 to 22. But where I noticed the biggest improvement is in metcons with HSPU's. They just don't die out as quickly as they used to. For example, I just did NATE today and PR'd it by 3 rds, because this time, instead of starting to break up my HSPU's in round 11, I only had to start breaking them up in round 16. Anyways, what I am trying to say is Thank You. This is a great training method, and one I will continue to use.


wrote …

Great article. Thanks much.
Just a clarification/question: Are the total amounts on the volume training sessions (pg. 3) correct?
Session 1: Isn't it a total of 24 instead of 23 reps?
Session 2: Isn't it 33 total reps?
Session 3: 40 reps?
Session 4: 45 reps?
Session 5: 52 reps?


Ana Badell wrote …

Hi Brian - thanks for pulling together the goat article, good stuff.

I do have a few questions... I was going to start a volume training program today for my ring dips, but I found myself at a loss... where do I start?

I see in a previous post that the total for the first 20 minute session should be 2x my one-set max. But that still leaves me with some questions:

-- what should each minute of the 20 minutes look like? Would you have some guidelines to share?
-- And then what should the following sessions look like...?

I'm probably looking for a formula / set guidelines of sorts...

Please let me know any insight you can share! I'm excited to see what this volume training can do for my ring dips!!


wrote …

Ana - you say "I see in a previous post that the total for the first 20 minute session should be 2x my one-set max" but I can't find that anywhere. Where did I say that?

From the article, you should be looking to keep all reps in the 20 minutes session with a 2 rep range of each other. So if you start at 4, you shouldn't dip below 2. You're also trying to stay below total muscle failure, but this may happen. If you don't know where to start, start at 1-2 reps per minute, and just see how many minutes you can go.

Next session, try to go a little longer. Once you get to 20 minutes, add reps.

For your other questions:
"-- what should each minute of the 20 minutes look like? Would you have some guidelines to share?"

Can you relate this to Table 1 in the article? I'm not clear on your question.

"-- And then what should the following sessions look like...?"

Again, can you relate this to Table 1? This table lays out multiple sessions.


Ana Badell wrote …

Thanks, Brian!! I try to leverage Table 1 in the article coupled with this additional information.

Regarding the starting set for the the first 20 minute session, comment #49:
1) How to determine starting sets. Rule of thumb that we use to start out is that you want your total reps in the VT session to be about twice your 1 Set Max. Increase from there.

Thanks again!!


wrote …


Thanks for this article! As a beginning CrossFitter who routinely is limited in WODs by gymnastic movements, this is exactly what I was looking for as means to develop new skills.

However, I have a few questions as to how to structure the workouts past the 5th session in the article's table.

How can I extend the program to get to 10 reps of a given exercise?

Is that number of reps not feasible in an every minute on the minute program?

After completing your 5 session goat training schedule, should I simply adopt the Recon Ron programming to get to 10?

If so, do I need to lengthen the interval?

Thanks again for the time and effort you put into the article, it's gotten me excited about movements that used to completely frustrate me.



wrote …

Hi Conor, thanks for your question. The article lays a beginner plan out: "While
this plan might be of use for beginners, we have found the official CrossFit Warm-Up to be best for beginners."

You can find the CrossFit Warm Up here:

I'm assuming you are trying to work on pullups? If that's the case, and regular exposure to the CrossFit warmup is either not possible or for whatever reason not doing the trick, the Recon Ron program might be more suitable out of the gate as it's a lower volume:

As a beginner though, the rule is "do something" and you'll see improvement, just don't let "perfect" be the enemy of "good enough." Start something ASAP and tweak as you go.


wrote …


Thanks so much for your great article, which I'm only discovering a year later!

I'd like to work on my dead-hang pull-ups / chin-ups and also bar dips (en route to ring dips). And, ideally, I'd like to train both chin-ups and pull-ups. So, two questions:

1. What do you think about combining RRPR for one modality (pull-ups) with VT for another modality (dips)? Is this overtraining waiting to happen? As with most things CrossFit, I always have to remind myself to have patience.

2. Within RRPR, what do you think about extending each week for 2 weeks and doing 3 sessions for each grip, alternating days and putting in some rest?

Many thanks for your guidance and coaching!

CrossFit 212


wrote …

Rich, sorry for the lag in getting back to you. For anyone else that wants to ask me a question, the best way is post to

1. I think that's fine so long as you do them on different days and don't do those movements in a workout the same day. Start at a doable level.

2. I think that would probably work, but nature gets the final vote. If it's working, keep it up. If you're feeling overtrained, back off.


replied to comment from Richard Rivero

Rich, sorry for the lag in getting back to you. For anyone else that wants to ask me a question, the best way is post to

1. I think that's fine so long as you do them on different days and don't do those movements in a workout the same day. Start at a doable level.

2. I think that would probably work, but nature gets the final vote. If it's working, keep it up. If you're feeling overtrained, back off.

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