CrossFit.com Programming Analysis: Part 1

CrossFit.com has been posting a single Workout of the Day (WOD) since 2001. This seemingly innocuous act has snowballed into the most disruptive fitness movement the industry has ever seen. It has led to over 9,000 independently owned CrossFit® Affiliate Gyms, and over 200,000 competitors in the Sport of Fitness™.

As far as we can tell, more people follow crossfit.com (AKA “Main Site” or “.com”) programming than any other single source of programming. It is the only official source of programming that is put out by CrossFit HQ. As such, we think it is very useful to analyze the characteristics and trends contained within the crossfit.com programming. It is worthwhile for followers of “.com” programming, as well as coaches who program for their gyms, to spend some time studying and researching these things.

In 2003, Coach Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, published a “Theoretical Template for CrossFit’s Programming“. In it he detailed some of the concepts behind his programming philosophy, and gave us a small window into his genius. For some people, the crossfit.com WOD seems to be somewhat of an enigma. Many have criticized the seeming “randomness”, “lack of structure”, and “lack of progression” in the programming. Some have suggested or insinuated that little thought goes into deciding what workouts, what types of workouts, and what order of workouts get assigned on crossfit.com. We categorically reject this notion, and can see a lot of deliberate thought and careful planning evidenced in the crossfit.com programming.

On Beyond the Whiteboard, we’ve been entering in the “Main Site” WOD daily since we launched in 2008. In this series of articles, we will be analyzing various characteristics and trends found in the Main Site programming.

Modality Analysis

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In this article, we will look at what Coach Glassman refers to as “Modality”. There are three different movement modalities in CrossFit: Monostructural Metabolic Conditioning or “cardio” (“M”), Gymnastics or Bodyweight (“G”), and Weightlifting (“W”). Categorizing movements by modality is one way to look at the balance we find in a WOD. A big part of the magic in CrossFit programming is the way these modalities are combined.

To give an example, “Fran” contains Pull-ups (“G”) and Thrusters (“W”), giving it a “GW” modality. “Helen” contains Running (“M”), Pull-ups (“G”), and Kettlebell Swings (“W”), giving it an “MGW” modality.

Looking at the graphics above, you can see that the most common modality assigned on crossfit.com is “W only”. A close second is “GW”. In fact, 71% of the workouts assigned on crossfit.com contain at least one weightlifting movement. The least commonly assigned modality is “MW”, followed by “MG” and “M only”.  Comparing the actual programming to the Theoretical Template linked above, we can see quite a bit of deviation. It’s worth reiterate that Coach Glassman stresses in the article that they do NOT base the crossfit.com on any set template. The crossfit.com programming evolves over time, and later we will look at how the mix of individual modality types have trended over the years.

Below we can see the breakdown of single (“M”, “G”, or “W”), double (“MG”, “MW” or “GW”), and Triple (“MGW”) modality workouts. Single modality workouts are most commonly prescribed, followed closely by double modality workouts. Triple modality workouts are seen less than 10% of the time.

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Yearly Trends by Modality

Over the years, we have seen different trends in the crossfit.com programming. Some years certain modality combinations were featured heavily, while others were neglected. I imagine some of this was intentional, and some of it can be chalked up to “constantly varied”. Below we will look briefly at each modality combination, broken down by year.

Single Modalities:

“G only” by Year

In 2008 and 2009, we can see “G only” accounting for roughly 20% of the workouts. By 2012-2012 it has fallen to roughly 11%.

G-modality

“M only” by Year

In 2008, “M only” accounted for 10% of the workouts. From 2009-2012 it hovered around 6%. In 2013, we saw it jump back up to almost 8%.

M-modality

“W only” by Year

“W only” has hovered around and below 30% for the entire period. We see a roughly 3% drop-off from 2010-2012, but it was the highest every in 2013 at 30.9%. “W only” has always been a prominent  modality in the programming. It was only overshadowed by “GW” in 2010 and 2o12.

W-modality

Double Modality:

“MG” by Year

“MG” has been around 7% during this period, with a low of 5.5% in 2010 and a high of 8.2% in 2008. In 2013, we saw a 1% drop to 6.2%.

MG-modality

“MW” by Year

“MW” started in 2008 at 2.1%, and then slowly grew to a peak of 6.1% in 2012. In 2013 we saw a reversal in the trend, and it dropped back to 3.8%, its lowest level since 2008.

MW-modality

“GW” by Year

“GW” has varied quite a bit over the years. Its lowest share was 21.2% in 2009, and its highest was 33.8% in 2012. In 2010 and 2012, it was the most prescribed modality.

GW-modality

Triple Modality:

“MGW” by Year

“MGW” grew steadily from 2008-2011, where it peaked at 13%. It dropped to 9% in 2012, and recovered in 2013 up to 12.4%.

MGW-modality

Concluding Thoughts

Hopefully you were able to glean some interesting insights through our presentation above. Keep in mind that modality is just one piece of the puzzle. In future articles we will be looking at movement selection and frequency, as well as other characteristics such as workout duration, rep ranges, and loading. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page if you want to be notified of the next installment. In the meantime, good luck with your programming!

The 10 Most Difficult CrossFit Hero WODs

Since its early days, CrossFit has been honoring service men who have given their lives in service of their country and communities.  From time to time, we will see a new Hero WOD released on CrossFit.com.  These WODs have a reputation for being much harder than your average CrossFit workout.  Many crossfitters suffer through the WODs as a way of honoring those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

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Tattoo on Arnie Quinones back that he had done in tribute to the fallen New York firefighters from 9/11. In 2009 he died on duty. RIP. Credit: All-Voice

Difficultly Metric

We created this metric for each workout on Beyond The Whiteboard to help users get a feel for how difficult a workout is. We took a look at the percentage of people who scaled each workout. Based on that metric here are the 10 most difficult Hero WODs:

1. “Arnie”

Difficulty: 90
With a single 2 pood kettlebell:
21 Turkish get-ups, Right arm
50 Swings
21 Overhead squats, Left arm
50 Swings
21 Overhead squats, Right arm
50 Swings
21 Turkish get-ups, Left arm

2. “Luce”

Difficulty: 83
Wearing a 20 pound vest, three rounds for time of:
1K Run
10 Muscle-ups
100 Squats

3. “J.J.”

Difficulty: 83
For time:
185 pound Squat clean, 1 rep
10 Parallette handstand push-ups
185 pound Squat clean, 2 reps
9 Parallette handstand push-ups
185 pound Squat clean, 3 reps
8 Parallette handstand push-ups
185 pound Squat clean, 4 reps
7 Parallette handstand push-ups
185 pound Squat clean, 5 reps
6 Parallette handstand push-ups
185 pound Squat clean, 6 reps
5 Parallette handstand push-ups
185 pound Squat clean, 7 reps
4 Parallette handstand push-ups
185 pound Squat clean, 8 reps
3 Parallette handstand push-ups
185 pound Squat clean, 9 reps
2 Parallette handstand push-ups
185 pound Squat clean, 10 reps
1 Parallette handstand push-up

4. “Nick”

Difficulty: 80
12 rounds for time of:
45 pound Dumbbell hang squat clean, 10 reps
6 Handstand push-ups on dumbbells

5. “Jag 28″

Difficulty: 79
For time:
Run 800 meters
28 Kettlebell swings, 2 pood
28 Strict Pull-ups
28 Kettlebell clean and jerk, 2 pood each
28 Strict Pull-ups
Run 800 meters

6. “Holleyman”

Difficulty: 78
30 rounds for time of:
5 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball
3 Handstand push-ups
225 pound Power clean, 1 rep

7. “Ship”

Difficulty: 78
Nine rounds for time of:
185 pound Squat clean, 7 reps
8 Burpee box jumps, 36″ box

8. “Tom”

Difficulty: 76
Complete as many rounds in 25 minutes as you can of:
7 Muscle-ups
155 pound Thruster, 11 reps
14 Toes-to-bar

9. “ADAMBROWN”

Difficulty: 75
Two rounds for time of:
295 pound Deadlift, 24 reps
24 Box jumps, 24 inch box
24 Wallball shots, 20 pound ball
195 pound Bench press, 24 reps
24 Box jumps, 24 inch box
24 Wallball shots, 20 pound ball
145 pound Clean, 24 reps

10. “Bull”

Difficulty: 72
Two rounds for time of:
200 Double-unders
135 pound Overhead squat, 50 reps
50 Pull-ups
Run 1 mile

Recovering From Last Year : Jeremy Kinnick

I have competed in every CrossFit Games Open. I placed 99th and 75th worldwide in 2011 and 2012 respectively, and was fortunate enough to make it the CrossFit Games both years. Last year, 2013, I finished 216th world wide and didn’t make it to the Games. After regionals, unlike the previous years, I felt burned out, and decided to re-evaluate my training methods. This year I placed 40th worldwide and, more importantly, realized a lot along the way.

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Getting Less With More

What was wrong with me? I trained as much as I could. Heck, I trained more than I ever thought possible. I went 2 weeks or more without resting. I hit multiple workouts daily, plus strength portions, endurance efforts, and skill work. All I did was workout. I went to get ART work done once a week for the entire year. I mobilized constantly. I ate perfectly and upped my intake to give my body more fuel. I did everything my coach said to do. I followed the plan. It left me wondering how I could possibly fail. It felt like more than just falling short of my goals. It felt like I failed to perform at my full capabilities. All the work I put it didn’t amount to much. I wasn’t better than I was the year before. If anything, I was worse. It left me wondering if I truly wanted to continue competing at the top levels in CrossFit. I was doubting all the sacrifices I was putting in. I was giving up precious time with my wife, my boys, and sacrificing everything else in my life to be the best. I understand sometimes you have to do things like this when pursuing great things. But the strain it was having on every aspect of my life was not something I was willing to continue with.

Back To Basics

Flash forward one year. I had my best CrossFit Games Open ever in 2014, placing 40th worldwide. I finished 10th in the world on 14.3. I have never felt better in my life. What changed?! How did I get here after such a disappointing year?

“Stick to the basics and when you feel you’ve mastered them it’s time to start all over again, begin anew – again with the basics – this time paying closer attention.” -Greg Glassman

From early 2012 all the way to late 2013, my brother and I took a break from handling my programming because we were busy with so many other things. Looking back now we realize we made a big mistake. We took the easy route and it showed when I did not make the progress I needed to and fell short of my goals. When we realized that I had stalled out we took my programming and training back into our own hands. We went back to the basics. Using Beyond The Whiteboard, we identified what my biggest weaknesses were and made a plan to attack them. What was even more frustrating is that the weaknesses we identified were the same ones I have struggled with since starting CrossFit. It’s funny how easy it is to go so long ignoring the hardest things to improve on. The specific weakness training was something I did separately from my workouts and I took an extremely focused approach that attacked them from all different directions. I basically committed time 3-5 days a week working on those weaknesses. Toes to bar, pulling strength, pushing strength, etc.

From late July until mid January, I really focused on getting stronger through powerlifting. I would powerlift 3 times a week, hit workouts only 3 times a week, Olympic lift twice a week, and work on gymnastic movements twice a week. From January until now I have upped my workouts to 4 times a week, switched my lifting focus to 3 days of Olympic lifting specific strength and skill work, and I also added endurance work with running and rowing repeats 4 times a week. We focused on the quality of the work I was getting in, where as the previous year I feel like I was grinding away at a higher volume with much less purpose. Another big realization I made is that I have performed at my absolute best at a much lower bodyweight than what I was competing at. I have dropped down from 217# in October to a much lighter 189#.

All of these changes to my training regimen were a big part of my turnaround. It was more focused on what I personally needed to do and it was much less volume. It changed everything as far as the time and energy I now have to put into the things that matter most to me. I get more time with my wife and boys. She gets to train more and improve as an athlete. I can give more attention to my gym and do what I love, changing more lives through proper nutrition and CrossFit. Most importantly it has allowed me to enjoy life and focus less on me and more on others. I can credit a lot of my success to these changes that allowed me to get back to having fun this year.

At CrossFit Kinnick I do all the programming for the competitors and the group classes. For the first time in around 2 years I started working out in group classes. I would program the gym workout and then make a competitor version that would usually include more advanced versions of movements and mix in heavier weights. And my athletes were beating me on workouts. My wife, Giermaine Kinnick, would beat me some days. Nick Robles, Daniel O’Brien, Chris Nicholson, Elyse Persico, Melody Sanchez, Christine Navarro, Sariah Veirs, or Andrew Perry might best me on others. It was awesome because it pushed me. Some days I would program workouts that I knew were strengths for other athletes and use that as an opportunity to try to beat them at something in their wheelhouse. Other days I would program to my strengths and try to lap them. The competitive drive was there but we were all having a blast working out together and pushing each others limits.

I came to realize that in strictly following outside programming and pouring everything into my own training I had lost sight of what makes CrossFit so fantastic…the community. Hitting workouts alone or separate from my athletes was a grind. I needed a change but I couldn’t see it. Even though I overhauled my training program and changed my focus, I truly think the biggest change this year is that the fun is back.

Interact With Jeremy

Twitter: @JeremyKinnick
Facebook: Jeremy Kinnick

Programming Breakdown: CrossFit Games Open 2014

Earlier this week we released a scores breakdown for the this year’s CrossFit Open. We also thought it would be informative to breakdown the programming(workout structure) for this year’s Open as well.

Movements in the Open
Monostructural Gymnastics Weightlifting
Row Double Unders Power Snatches
Chest-to-Bar Pull-ups Overhead Squats
Box Jumps Deadlifts
Toes-to-Bars Wall Ball Shots
Muscle-ups Cleans
Burpees (Bar Facing) Thrusters

At CrossFit’s Coach’s Prep Course, there is a section on analyzing programming. It’s a great course and we highly recommend it to anyone who has been through the CrossFit Level 1 Course. We built these areas of analysis into Beyond the Whiteboard, allowing you to see how your own programming stacks up (see: Analyze > Programming). The following is a breakdown of the 2014 CrossFit Games Open programming based on these characteristics.

 The Open Workouts were primarily AMREPs, Couplets, High Rep, Short-Medium Duration, Medium Load with GW Modality.

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