Choosing the Right Gym by Crystal McCullough

What comes to mind when someone says the word CrossFit or the phrase “functional training”? As of 2017, there are over 13,000 CrossFit affiliated gyms in over 120 countries. If you add the other “functional training” and “globo” gyms onto that, there is practically a gym on every street corner. Most of these gyms are independently owned or franchised with no hierarchy or headquarter-driven programming. You could walk into ten CrossFit gyms and none of them will be the same. They all have their own culture, their own program, and their own way of doing things. That is good in that if you don’t like one gym, there is probably another close by that is the perfect fit. The downside is, as the consumer, how do you choose? Do you base it on location, price, referral, or something else? Do you shop around until it feels like home?

One question you might want to ask yourself is how qualified are the staff members? When you choose your doctor, you look at their qualifications, if they have a specialty, and if they have bedside manner – because your life could literally be in their hands. When you choose your dentist, you do the same thing. You are trusting that person to be a professional and know what they are doing. So, why wouldn’t you hold the staff member at your gym to the same standard? You put your health and fitness into their hands and should be able to trust they know what they are doing.


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My Advice For Someone Searching For a New Gym

  1. Get on a gym’s website. Check out their coach and staff member page. Are they educated? How long have they been in the industry? Is this a part time gig for them or do they see their job as a profession?
  2. Take advantage of a free trial offer at the gym. Visit several class times to get an idea of the different coaching styles and the culture of the gym.
  3. Pay close attention to the program. Is it well rounded? Does the coach know how to modify and scale for athletes who need it?
  4. Engage with the other members. Are they welcoming and friendly?
  5. Are the coaches concerned if you move well?

My Advice For Coaches

  1. Be a professional.
  2. Never stop learning. Don’t be content with what you think you know. Learn from those smarter than you.
  3. Be early to the classes you are coaching. An athlete shouldn’t beat you to the gym.
  4. Be prepared for class. Know what the athletes are doing prior to class starting. Read up on the best ways to modify for injured athletes.
  5. Be available to the athletes. Engage with them.
  6. Have a contingency plan for large classes and weather.
  7. Know your clientele and their needs.

How To Choose The Right Exercises

A well-rounded program should hit all muscle groups and all three energy systems within the week. It should be well thought out with strength, skill, and conditioning components. As an example, At LEAN Fitness Systems (home to the Mash Compound), our LEAN Fit crew has a barbell strength component three times per week, a gymnastics strength or skill twice per week, and conditioning each day. We are currently working on building stronger cores and treating imbalances. Strength should never be random and it should be periodized.

We have a wide demographic of members of all different skill levels. We feel it is very important to build these skill levels into our program. A sample week of our current training block is as follows:

Week 1
Day 1
Bench Press 5×5 increasing in weight
Banded Face Pulls 5×10
3 Rounds:
15 Ball Slams
10 Push-ups
40 yard Farmer Carry
Accessory Work:
3 sets:
30 Russian Twists
45 second Plank Hold
Day 2
Skill Work –
Toes to Bar
**Take about 10 minutes to work this skill
Strength Work –
Plank Shoulder Taps
**Front Leaning Rest (top of the push-up position)
5 x 15 each side
*Rest 60 seconds between sets
10 KB Swings
15 Burpees
10 Toes to Bar
Health – no weight assigned; scale accordingly
Athletic – 53/35 KBS and Knee Raises
Performance – 70/55
Day 3
3×5 Front Squat building in weight
Part 1 –
EMOM 4 Row or Bike x30 seconds
Rest 5 minutes
Part 2 –
Round 1: (3 sets)
60 yard Sprint
40 (20 each side)
20 Ball Slams
*Rest 90 seconds from last person
Round 2: (3 sets)
60 yard Sprint
30 (15 each side)
Single Leg V-Ups
15 Kettle Bell Swings
*Rest 90 seconds from last person
Round 3: (3 sets)
60 yard Sprint
20 (10 each side) Plank Shoulder Taps
10 Get Ups
Day 4
Gymnastics Work For Quality:
4 Sets:
30 second dead hang from the pull-up bar in the hollow position
** alternate would be 30 second in hollow on the floor
Rest 60-90 seconds b/t sets
5 Rounds
25 Hollow Rocks
25 Arch Rocks
 6 Rounds:
5 Squat Jumps
**5 second hold in the bottom of the squat
3 sets:
30 second sit and reach
20 each side heel taps
Cool down with BIKE and lots of foam rolling!! Quads/Hamstrings/Glutes!
Day 5
Back Squat 1RM
Deadlift 4×6
Accessory Work:
3 sets:
Single Leg RDL x 10 each leg (with KB)
KB Hip Thrust x 10
Seated DB Press x 5

As it should be, our program is still a work in progress and we are constantly working to improve. We have recently gotten more in depth with our three different skill levels. We’ve started adding barbell movements into our conditioning pieces to increase the level of difficulty for our performance level athletes. We have a barbell club option where two USAW Level 5 coaches can teach the Olympic movements (snatch and clean and jerk) for anyone who wants to learn them. As time goes on, we are going to start adding these movements into our classes for our performance level athletes. All of our athletes have to earn their level by portraying competency in movement. Whether they are 65 and their goal is to be able to continue to live alone and do activities of daily living or they are a 14 year old with Olympic aspirations, in our gym, they will move well first.

One of the biggest takeaways I’d like you to have from this article: if a gym or a coach is not interested in if you move well, move on!

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