CrossFit Main Line and CrossFit R5 offer a number of programs designed to prepare individuals for everything from life’s daily tasks, to local competitions, the CrossFit Open and the CrossFit Games. We hold daily WODs (Workout Of the Day), endurance workouts, CrossFit kids classes, barbell programs and competitor training. All of these programs have the same methodologies, structure and scientific approach, with the ultimate goal of functional longevity while being our fittest self possible. All workouts are structured for athletes to train together, giving us all of the encouragement and the community to help meet our goals. As a CrossFit affiliate owner, it is my mission to develop programing that encourages and pushes all levels of athletes to train together, assisting in building the strongest community possible.
For over a decade I have had the honor of training with and programming for athletes at all levels. Coaching and training with these athletes has allowed me some unique insights into the most efficient and effective training programs. My coaching and programing philosophy revolves around continuing research and personal development. This continual education shows in our ever improving coaching techniques, programming and community-building efforts. As the owner and head of coaching development for CrossFit Main Line and R5, it is my goal to educate and encourage both our coaches and competitors to take this journey too. A journey that consists of researching several different programming methods to find out what best suits them as competitive crossfitters. However, as we stress with our coaches, our competitors should have a higher understanding of their programming and body awareness and not blindly follow a program because others are or because it is currently popular. I suggest that every athlete studies to understand the various methodologies and how they will affect him/her personally, including the long term training effects and impact on one’s longevity as an athlete.
Assisting in this research process is my goal with the below synopsis of our programming philosophy – that it may help to educate our advanced athletes – as well as anyone visiting this website that has a basic understanding of fitness. I hope it explains clearly not only how CrossFit differs from other training programs but also how our own CrossFit boxes, CrossFit Main Line and CrossFit R5, differ from the training you’ll receive from other CrossFit affiliates.
CrossFit Main Line and R5’s programming employs programming methods to increase the functional longevity of it’s athletes, being able to live the best life possible. There are two primary methods of organizing long term programming for athletes: the concurrent and conjugate systems.
The concurrent system of training is typically seen in long term programming where heavy as well as light weights are used in the same training period, with the overall goal of increasing absolute strength as well as speed and endurance as the same time. Research shows that the concurrent system of long term programming is affective among newer athletes. However, as athletes develop their general physical preparedness this method of programming has negative affects, causing accommodation (plateauing), overuse/overtraining injuries and decreased functionality.
Unlike the concurrent system, the conjugate system of training was developed to increase the longevity of olympic athletes by rotating special strength exercises to avoid accommodation and reduce injury by eliminating an athletes weakest link(s). The conjugate system focuses on ‘max effort’ and ‘dynamic effort’ (speed and endurance) days separately which increases the athlete’s absolute strength, a facet of strength that is generally underdeveloped in the concurrent system. More importantly, increasing absolute strength is proven to reduce the risk of injury. It is the conjugate systems foundation in olympic lifting and track and field that makes it the ideal platform for all sports and CrossFit’s ‘general physical preparedness’ methodology to thrive.
At the heart of the conjugate system are bi-weekly ‘max effort’ days. The frequent rotation of exercises; back squat, front squat, overhead squat, strict press, push press and all their variations allows our athletes and competitors to work at near max capacity year around without suffering from overtraining symptoms. No other system of programming allows for such high volumes to be completed at this frequency. Therefore, our athletes and competitors train heavier more often, at a wider variety of movements, thus developing greater absolute strength over time while avoiding injury that comes with any constant repetition of movement. For example, concurrent training programs allow athletes to lift their max weights only twice every four weeks, while conjugate programs allow for eight attempts at max weight in the same period. Over the course of a year those figures becomes 12-24 versus 110. So for an athlete wanting to improve their strength, research clearly shows the conjugate system outperforms.
Dynamic effort days are another aspect of the conjugate system that blends well with CrossFit’s methodologies. The primary goal of dynamic work – working at well below your one rep max weight – is to teach the nervous system how to be more reactive while aiding in recovery, through the repetition method, as well as absolute strength gains. In conjugate programs, dynamic effort movements are rotated every fourth week in order to avoid plateaus and overtraining while neurologically increasing the efficiency of that movement.
It is also a common misconception that athletes must schedule their programming to physically peek during times surrounding competition, however this is not true. The frequent rotation of max effort lifts and the low volumes associated with dynamic effort work allows for conjugate athletes to be no more than 7 days away from peeking at any time. To physically peak as a conjugate athlete simply remove max effort attempts a week before an event and complete only dynamic effort work. Where as concurrent programmed athletes must wait until the end of their 3-4 week overload cycle and then complete a week of restoration and recovery to peak. This ability to peak at any time allows everyone to train together, developing a stronger community to inspire and encourage one another.
Special exercises are generally programmed alongside of both max effort and dynamic effort days. The primary goal of these special exercises is to strengthen the limiting factors of the compound movements, movements that recruit multiple muscle groups and joints, completed on max effort days. The physics involved with compound movements such as the squat and press are limited to one’s anatomy and muscular development. For example, your anatomy may be such that your limiting factor of a max effort dead lift may be your hamstrings. Therefore it is important that we isolate and work on these limiting factors with specific exercises in order to reduce the athletes risk of injury and increase max effort attempts.
To further explain this principle, imagine throwing an object as far as possible with a given arm speed. If a whiffle ball is thrown the ball will not travel very far because there is not enough mass to create velocity. If a shot put is thrown the same will occur because there is to much mass to create velocity. But if a baseball is thrown it will travel a great distance because the correct ratio of force, velocity and mass has been created. Within weightlifting a similar balance is found by performing dynamic effort (speed) work within variations of the olympic lifts and force is created through special exercises. If we were solely to perform the olympic lifts and their variations the athlete would overdevelop certain muscle groups and neglect others, causing injury due to training imbalances, this is typically found in the concurrent method of programming. If an advanced athlete wishes to progress and avoid accommodation, special exercises must be performed to counteract the limitations of one’s anatomy.
In our general programming special exercises are added into the workout of the day, while additional special exercises are programmed for competitor athletes. Competitors generally complete an additional 3 to 5 special exercises on max effort and dynamic effort training days, including 1 or 2 that concentrate on increasing recovery. To further avoid accommodation, competitor programming utilizes accommodating resistance, such as the use of bands and chains to increase the difficulty and variety of special strength exercises.
Conjugate + CrossFit:
I believe and the progress of the athletes at our CrossFit affiliates show the marriage of the conjugate system and CrossFit is the perfect platform for athletes to thrive. Furthermore, if we were to solely focus on max effort or dynamic effort, we would be specializing and would no longer be a crossfitter, “our speciality is not specializing”. Therefore, we pair specific high intensity workouts with their specific max effort or dynamic effort conjugate counterpart. This allows our athletes and competitors access to the benefits of the conjugate system while staying true to CrossFit’s methodologies. Managing these weightlifting days with their general physical preparedness counterparts; gymnastics and cardio allows the athletes at CrossFit Main Line and R5 to excel at all aspects of fitness while avoiding the most common pitfall of an exercise program, accommodation and injury.
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- Supertraining, Yuri Verkhoshansky and Mel Siff
- A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting, A.S. Medvedyev
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