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Should competitor programming be different?


Should competitor programming be different?

Many gyms are known to have amazing competitors! Some even cater to them and have special programming just for athletes who wish to compete. You’ll see them separate from the regular class doing their own thing in the corner while everyone else is doing what is posted on WODIFY or the Whiteboard. No doubt it provides motivation. However, is this the right way to program for your gym? If competitors are paying clients as well, is it fair they get their own programming?

Well, first I will acknowledge that to compete in CrossFit these days competitors do need to do a lot more work because the demands of athletes are increasing in this sport. If someone wants to be competitive it will require additional work and undoubtedly these individuals will have to spend more time in the gym. Does it make sense to have completely separate programming based on the CrossFit model though?

In my opinion, no. Competitors do need additional programming, but much like Coach Glassman said individuals needs vary by degree. I hear about it quite a bit that gyms have a “competition team” who do “their own thing”. They have a separate program and sometimes don’t even participate or work out with everyone else because they want to push themselves.  I understand having a class that is focused on competing for individuals who wish to do so. At CrossFit L3 we have a 7:30 P.M. coaches class where if individuals chose to, they can work out with myself and other like-minded individuals who have the aspiration to one day make it to the games. So what’s the catch? We follow the same program.

In my opinion a gyms goal is to improve everyone’s fitness. If the programs goal is to get everyone the results then why make a separate program just for competitors, shouldn’t the regular program give the “competitors” the push they need to improve their fitness? The answer is yes and the way we do this is scaling.

A lot of people hear the term scaling and they believe it means ONLY making a workout easier. This is not the case. Scaling is meant to adjust the workout based upon the athletes ability. With that said, the workout programmed for the day should be and provide a scaling option for more experienced athletes to challenge themselves. By doing this, you provide each and every client to develop their skills and improve at a constant rate. From my experience, and looking at programming from various gyms across the nation you will see an RX option and then various levels of scaling down to ensure everyone can complete the workout. I’ve seen very few and been to very few gyms in which an increased scaling option is provided and instead another, separate program is made for those advanced athletes which I believe is a disservice to everyone.

First, having a competition only class isolates everyday clients and in my opinion doesn’t give them the opportunity to see or workout with the competition athletes for inspiration. If everything is scaled properly athletes of all skill levels, doing the workout to their ability should finish the workout close to the same time, however, allow them to recognize there is still improvement to be made and movements to learn.

Second, in my opinion, having a competition class with separate programming really lessens the value of the “regular” program. In a way, and from a certain perspective it’s saying the program you are doing is just good enough while the competition program is only for “serious” athletes. I look at every individual who walks through that door as someone who is serious? Why show up every day and pour your heart out in a workout if you weren’t serious.

The last observation I have with having a separate program for “competitors” to follow is, in my opinion, a reflection of care a coach has for everyone. Competition programs I have seen are very detailed to prepare athletes for competitions that coming. It takes time, studying and analyzing of data and a clear plan to be effective. Shouldn’t every athlete receive that sort of attention in their program? I believe so, however if you’re competitors aren’t following the same program as everyone else, what does that say about your view or investment in their specific fitness goals?

Following up on a point I made earlier if someone does have the aspiration to compete it doesn’t mean they follow another, separate program. It means they have to put more work in and they will need to be more dedicated. Yes, the athlete will do the exact same workout, scaled to their ability as everyone else, however, they will be expected to do accessory lifts and spend more time refining their technique under load. If they have a weakness, they are expected to spend more time and effort correcting that over multiple classes. Even if athletes do not have the goal to compete, this option to stay after and continue to work on their weakness is always open to them and encouraged if they have a specific goal they are trying to reach.

See, at L 3, we make it a point to provide the best programming possible for all athletes. If the program is solid, everyone will get results and be prepared for whatever they decide to participate in. Whether that be life in general, an in-house challenge, the CrossFit Open or some of the larger regional competitions gaining traction among the community. We allow athletes the opportunity to put in the extra work to compete but we will never isolate our competitors from our (Community). The only stipulation for our “coaches” class is that technique is pristine. You can still have your modifications and do the workout scaled, but your technique must be so refined you are able to execute a single cue if given.

Ultimately a program and a gyms quality is NOT defined by its competitors but by each and every client. If I only have a few individuals capable of doing movements correctly, getting results and being able to show case their hard work, I’m not truly running a client-focused gym.

So, let’s say you are trying to figure out how to program for everyone, including competitors at all times. How might you do that? Well, let me help you out.

This is the workout of the day:

Back Squat: 5@50%, 5@60%,4@70% 3@80%, 5×2@90%

Programming the weightlifting percentage based allows each athlete to utilize their current ability and follow a periodic progression aimed at increasing their maximal lift.

4 Rounds For Time

400m Sprint

10 Pull Ups

10 Burpees

5 Thrusters

Scaling up for our competitors the workout would like this:

4 Rounds For Time

400m Sprint (Sub 1:30 split guys/Sub 1:45 split ladies)

10 Bar Muscle Ups

10 Burpees or Bar Over Burpees

5 Thrusters (135/95)

This is how we would scale it down:

4 Rounds For Time

400m Sprint

10 Banded Pulls Ups or Ring Rows

10 Burpees

5 Thrusters (Weight dictated by technique)

Or in the notes we’d put something like such, instead of writing the workout twice:

Level Red(RX+, Competitors) Bar Muscle Ups, Bar o/ Burpees), Thrusters (135M/95W)

Level Black(RX) Chest to Bar Pull Ups, Burpees or Bar o/Burpees (115M/75W)

Level Gray(Scaled) Pull Ups, Burpees,  Thrusters (95M/65W)

Level White (Scaled +) Banded Pulls or Ring Rows, Burpees, Thrusters(Tech. Dictates)

This type of programming allows for all levels of athletic ability to come to any class and get the workout they desire without having a separate program. It’s easy to see how each and every individual can benefit from this. The program is the EXACT same, the SCALING is based upon the athletes abilities and gives them a goal for when the next time this workout shows itself. Remember, if someone desires to compete or become more well rounded they have the opportunity to do additional work to become more proficient or stronger in areas they are looking to improve.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer on what to do. I’ve seen many successful gyms that have separate programs. Personally, I feel as though the program should be the same for everyone and at our gym it has worked successfully over the past two years. The community is only growing stronger, everyone is seeing results and each and every athlete is able to push themselves and guide their fitness towards their desired goals!


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