Potomac – Tuesday 170620 – The Method Behind the Madness, Part II: Strength Programming

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The Method Behind the Madness, Part II: Strength Programming at Potomac CrossFit
By: Colin Farrell

In Part I, we took a look at the overarching philosophy of the programming here at PCF. The main principle–of course–is to create a broad and inclusive level of fitness by way of packing a great deal of CrossFit, and therefore more opportunities to be coached, into your hour here at Potomac. In Part II, we will have a look at the nuances of our strength work that occurs prior to the workout or metcon.

To dissect our strength program, we will start with the broad brush basics, then dive in deeper and deeper. Our strength work has a fairly regular schedule, but with a layers of variance.

Included are variations on each lift: hang, power, squat, deficit, sumo, split, muscle, Romanian, et al.

There are, of course, some variations in this schedule in order to keep you guys on your toes and to accommodate other programming considerations, but this is largely the set-up from Monday through Friday.

Now for the real meat and potatoes: the undulating percentages. We reverse engineer from max out dates (theoretical or actual), slowly building back from a 1-, 2-, 3-, or 5-repetition maximal effort for each lift. We will use the back squat max out as an example, scheduled for Week 6.

Week 1: 5×5 @ 75%
Week 2: 5×4 @ 80%
Week 3: 4×3 @ 85%
Week 4: 3×2 @ 90%
Week 5: 7×3 @ 60%
Week 6: Find a new 3 repetition maximum

Notice that from weeks 1 through 4, the volume (number of repetitions) decreases as the percentage (weight on the bar) increases. In week five we dramatically increase the total repetitions while simultaneously decreasing the percentage by 30 points:

Build strength across multiple weeks, then drop the percentage so as to hammer on mechanics the week prior to attempting a maximal effort lift.

This methodology is used by CrossFitters, powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, strongman athletes, even endurance athletes. By no means is it the only strength program (Google Wendler, Conjugate or West Side, for some commonly used strength-building protocols), but this program offers the flexibility to fit our Monday-through-Friday lifting schedule and varying athlete rest days.

The exact repetitions and percentages above change slightly from lift to lift and week to week, but charted across multiple weeks they follow the aforementioned pattern. In the interest of variance and the fact that hundreds of human bodies that roll through the gym don’t always adhere to the machinations of the above program each day, instead of “Back Squat 4x3x85%” the strength work will occasionally be written as “Back Squat 5-4-3-3-3-3” or as “E2MO2M for 14 Minutes Back Squat, 3 Reps.” The goal of all three versions is similar, but the latter two offer athletes an ability to scale up or scale down based on personal goals, fatigue (or lack thereof), as well as a variety of other personal factors.

Many gyms rotate their strength days so as to be “random” (surely there is a rhyme and reason to the rotation, but that is not to be expounded upon here) as far as which days of the week/month they perform specific lifts. There are, to be sure, benefits to switching up which days of the week and month we perform and practice the major lifts. As mentioned in Part I of “The Method Behind the Madness”, at Potomac we implement what we know works and what has stood the test of time: when it comes to building strength, a more strict schedule, or periodization, works extremely well.

In the coming year we will continue to implement additional accessory and auxiliary lifts to give you a more well-rounded strength and help athletes break through any plateaus you may have found yourself stuck on. This also adds additional layers of variance. The more you are exposed to, the better off you will be as athletes.

We will continue to research, study, test, and retest various methodologies and movements in the world of strength-training so as to deliver to you the best possible programming to increase your work capacity across broad time, and modal domains. Of course, we want to have fun and be safe along the way, and that is something we will never lose sight of.

In Part III of “The Method Behind the Madness” we will take a gander at the methodology behind the metabolic conditioning workout (“MetCon”) programming for each day of the week.


RX’d Level II Level I

4 Rounds for Reps

In 4 Minutes:


Row 400m, then AMRAP
5 Jerk (135/95)
7 Box Jump (24/20)

4 Rounds for Reps

In 4 Minutes:


Row 400m, then AMRAP
5 Jerk (95/65)
7 Box Jump (20/16)

4 Rounds for Reps

In 4 Minutes:


Row 300m, then AMRAP
5 Jerk (75/55)
7 Box Jump (16/12)

Post total jerk and box jump reps to comments.

4 thoughts on “Potomac – Tuesday 170620 – The Method Behind the Madness, Part II: Strength Programming

  1. 96 for 16 minutes, 119 for 20 minutes, scaled (24″ BJ and 75# Jerk).

    24+24+24+24+23 — though probably with lesser quality lifts in rounds 4 and 5 — so I felt like I FINALLY scaled a workout properly!

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