How to Train Optimally for CrossFit or Functional Fitness by Nick Scott

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Hot to Train Optimally for Functional Fitness by Nick Scott

For more on Nick Scott, check out his original article: “How to Improve as an Athlete”

How can you train optimally for CrossFit and functional fitness? Well, to discuss this we’ll need to go over a bit of history in this training methodology/sport. To understand where you are and where you’re going, you must first understand where you’ve been. So let’s dive in, shall we?

Back in the beginning of CrossFit, the prescription/Rx for training was the following: constantly varied, “functional” movements, executed at high intensity. The intended effect was having greater work capacity (power output), across broad time and modal domains. That’s a fancy way of saying the ability to work really hard, from a short time to a longish time, with a variety of movements. The programming/dosing suggested was 3 days of training and 1 day rest in a constantly running rotation.

The programming suggested was mostly couplets (two paired movements), triplets, go long (over 15 min) every couple of weeks, and go heavy once a week. Now, this type of programming works very well for the stated objective of “health and fitness over a lifetime.” But, it won’t be fast, and you’ll need to be patient.

Now, in 2007 people wanted to test their fitness against others outside of their own gym, for bragging rights essentially. Thus was born the CrossFit Games. The tests were simple the first year, only a few events over 2 days. Then in 2008, a couple more events appeared. Within this time and shortly after, a new twist on the traditional training method had been developed (OPEX, out of OPT from James Fitzgerald). It was non-randomized, meaning the movements were chosen and planned to elicit a particular response and adaptation. He also used the concept of periodization. Also, the “Max Effort Black Box” method of training from Michael Rutherford had begun to take root. This was the concept of performing a strength movement/component before start of the traditional “metcon.” Or multiple strength movements throughout the training week. It was developed after observing that the majority of his athletes lacked the strength to do the CrossFit WOD (workout of the day) as prescribed without scaling. Here’s two basic examples of how this looks.

Monday:
Back squat
5-5-5-5-5
+
3 RFT:
500m row
30 pull ups

Tuesday:
Push press
5-5-5-5-5
+
AMRAP 12 min:
20 kettlbell swings
40 push ups
60 air squats

Wednesday:
Deadlift
5-5-5-5-5
+
5k run

Thursday:
REST

Or

Monday:
Back squat
5×5

Tuesday:
Metcon

Wednesday:
Push press
5×5

Thursday:
Metcon

Friday:
Deadlift
5×5

Saturday:
Metcon

Sunday:
REST

Then the CrossFit Games in 2009……a LOT of events. It was in this year we saw that the training methodology had started to evolve into something more sport like in it’s specificity of preparation.
The winner Mikko Salo trained much differently than anyone had ever seen before. If you haven’t seen the documentary “Sisu” I highly suggest it. It changed my perspective on training entirely at the time. It can NOT be overstated how dominant Mikko Salo was at the 2009 Games. Everyone wanted to know his secret. At this point CrossFit was mainly an American thing, but this dude from Finland showed up and put a beatdown on everyone. He was also joined by Annie Thorisdottir from Iceland, though she didn’t win that year she was incredibly dominant (and had only been training in CrossFit for a month).

Mikko’s training was beyond what people believed was possible to sustain at the time, they literally believed it beyond the physical capabilities of a human being. But there he was, in the flesh doing things day in and day out that it was thought at the time to be impossible to recover from. This changed the sport completely, and shook the concepts of training capacities to their core. This man was training 6 days a week, and on his “rest” days was running 7-12k. He was doing 10k rows in the morning in a closet…yeah, a closet. Then a lifting session, followed by a metcon, then a track session, then another metcon or two.

With this history lesson we’ve seen extremes of both ends of the volume spectrum, and everything in between.

So, what is optimal? Well that really depends. What are you training for? What are YOUR goals? If your goal is general fitness, traditional CrossFit will get you there. It’ll just take you a while to get up to a high level. If you want to push the timeline of the “GAINZ,” the Black Box approach works really well. After all, the stronger you are, the easier everything is. This is the perfect choice for people who want a little more, a little faster…but who don’t want to really commit to a highly structured training program. In fact, this is the style of training that the majority of boxes around the world use.

Now, what if your goal is to compete at local throwdowns, and to account well for yourself. You will definitely want to do something a bit more structured like OPEX style training, or add in a bias for your training to address weaknesses (gymnastics, cardio, strength, etc…whatever your weakness happens to be).
However, the approach that trumps everything is individualized training, from an experienced and knowledgeable coach. Nothing is more OPTIMAL than having someone take an objective look at you: your weaknesses, your strengths; and then designing a dialed-in plan to enhance your training effectiveness. In my experience, even coaches need a coach. The problem with group/blog style programming is that they are designed for the general population. Yes, group programming can be effective, and you’ll likely make gains, but it will pale in comparison to someone directing the training specifically for you, your goals, and your body.

Check out one of our five E-Books:

• “Squat Every Day”
• “Squat Every Day 2”
• “No Weaknesses”
• “Mash Program Sampler”
• “The Mash Blueprint for Program Design”

Check them out here: ⇒ Mash Elite E-Books

2. Check out one of the Online Teams:

• Mash Mafia Bronze
• Mash Mafia Silver
• Mash Mafia Gold
• Eat What You Want
• Eat and Lift What You Want

Check them out here: ⇒ Mash Mafia Online Teams

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