How CrossFit Football got it so right.

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CrossFit Football had a big influence on me back in 2012. It was one of the first CrossFit programs out there that adapted CrossFit training to a specific type of athlete: power athletes. John Welbourn his program towards the needs of football players, rugby players, and other field athletes who needed to be big, strong, and fast. This meant training athletes with a regular strength program, sprint work, and challenging metcons at the expense of more advanced gymnastic work and olympic lifting. This was one of the first “strength bias” CrossFit programs that has become the norm amongst most competitor protocols, although those focus more on the demands of the sport of functional fitness. However, what struck me the most about CrossFit Football is that they clearly stated who their RX athlete was and what they were capable of.

CrossFit Football publishes “The CrossFit Football Beginner’s Guide: Volume 1”, which is one of the best starting places any athlete looking to take their strength and conditioning training seriously. In it, they detail how their program is structured and what it aims to accomplish, what sets them apart, and how athletes can get the most out of it. It is equal parts thoughtful and irreverent. In describing the daily workout of the day on page 24, it addresses the comment “This DWOD looks way too heavy.”:

“CFFB DWODS are lightweight conditioning programmed for a 270lb+ professional athlete with a 600lbs squat, 700lb deadlift, 500lb bench, and a 400lb power clean. It just so happens if you can handle the loads it makes for a great training stimulus to construct an extremeley strong, and powerful athlete. A PowerAthlete.”

That’s a big dude. No wonder the RX weights are so aggressive. There was no way little newbie Crossfitter me was going to be able to do those workouts at RX and had no idea where to begin. So, I asked myself if these weights are indeed heavy for their RX athlete. I adjusted the RX weights in each workout as a percentage of max compared to the 270lb freak beast John Welbourne described. (which is the foundation of WODRight). For example, here is the DWOD from December 4, 2015:

Complete 6 Rounds of the complex.
185 lb Hang Power Clean – 5 Reps
185 lb Front Squat – 7 Reps
185 lb Push Jerk – 3 Reps
*Each complex must be completed unbroken. Rest as needed between rounds.
**For every bar drop mid-complex the penalty is 10 burpees to be completed after the workout.
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If we add up the reps, this workout is 30 hang power cleans, 42 front squats, and 18 push jerks with 185. However, the weight is being done with only 46.25% of the RX athlete’s 1RM power clean (185/400) which is relatively light/moderate . In other words, an athlete with a power clean 1RM of 200lbs would likely use 95lbs (technically 92.5) to do this workout. That sounds a bit more reasonable for the average male athlete we see in the gym. This makes a lot of sense, as the intention of the DWOD is to be conditioning and volume work. If the athlete with the 200 lb power clean tried to do this at 185, they wouldn’t get too far without breaking up the work, dragging it out, and finishing with a shit ton of burpees.

Coaches and athletes often have a hard time striking this balance in their WODs. Some coaches program with themselves in mind and write Rx weights relative to their own abilities without declaring them. This is problematic for athletes who, in their desire to get stronger and make progress, often overload the weight in their conditioning and miss out on the volume necessary for the goals of the workouts. Ego is the assassin of progress, especially if you’re dragging through WODs for the sake of a big RX number. Keep your strength work heavy and your conditioning work light and fast. If you aren’t sure how, WODRight can help.