Let’s define fitness. I think CrossFit does a great job of it. Fitness is increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Simply put, the ability to do more in various situations.
Typically we do that by working all facets of the fitness spectrum. One end of the spectrum being long distance – think marathons – the other end of the spectrum being heavy lifting – think 1 rep max squat. We try to touch points on the whole spectrum using mixed modal domains, like barbells, kettlebells, gymnastics and running.
So, what’s with our programming method?
In order to hit those domains in an organized method, we do have a plan. It’s based off of Westside Barbell’s Conjugate Method. With max effort work earlier in the week, and rep effort or dynamic effort later in the week.
For us max effort means lifts of 1-5 reps, heavy. Dynamic effort moves weight fast, like olympic weightlifting. Rep effort is doing a lot of reps, just like it sounds.
Each of these efforts requires varying demand on the central nervous system (CNS). Max effort days require a high level of CNS recruitment. Dynamic effort a bit less, and rep effort the least. Max effort days have a lower overall training volume, and rep effort days have more.
We pair these lifting components with metabolic training that requires a similar level of CNS recruitment. A 3-7 minute CrossFit WOD has a high CNS demand, versus a lower CNS demand on a 20 min WOD. Think how you feel after a 3 minute Fran, that’s highly demanding, versus how you feel after “Murph.” Yes you’re tired, just not in the same way.
The result looks like a wave. High CNS demand early in the week, fewer reps, working towards lower CNS demand and more reps later in the week. Because we are training for fitness, and not necessarily a sport, this allows us to remain on this model basically throughout the year. We don’t have specific phases or periodization because we alternate CNS demand weekly. We have found that this allows us to maintain a balanced fitness in the long term.