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The Method Behind the Madness, Part III: MetCon Programming at Potomac CrossFit
By: Colin Farrell
In Part II of “The Method Behind the Madness” we took a dive into the world of Potomac CrossFit’s strength development program. We have chosen and implemented a system that fits well into our gym’s community while considering a variety of factors, chief among them safety and effectiveness. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of strength programs CrossFit affiliates around the world follow. Even more numerous, however, are the methodologies surrounding the programming of the metabolic conditioning workouts.
Many are extremely similar, many are immensely effective, and some are not as effective. As with our strength program, we will continue to research, test, re-test, and implement (when appropriate) improvements to our program.
When looking at our MetCon programming, it is important not to use “random” and “varied” as synonyms for what is going each day of the week. There are a dozen or so factors to consider when putting together the workout of the day, here are just a few:
- Anterior chain- vs. posterior chain-dominant lifts
- Cycling through pulling, pushing, “cardio”, and conditioning movements
- Number of days we squat in a row, number of days we press overhead in a row
- Class attendance as it corresponds with day of the week
- Average athlete work:rest ratio
- Number of modalities/movements (couplet vs. triplet vs. chipper)
- Workout length
- Strength programming for the week
- Weather/time of the year
- Et al.
All of the above factors are listed in no particular order, and that is not a complete list. Data shows that most athletes who work out 3 or more days per work most often come every other day, so many workouts are programmed with that in mind. Secondly, we balance anterior chain movements (things like lunges, squats, wall-ball shots or thrusters) with posterior chain movements (kettlebell swings, deadlifts, power snatch) so as to ensure we don’t hit one or the other too many days in a row. Additionally, we layer on pushing movements (ring dips, push press, etc.), and/or pulling movements (rope climbs, toe-to-bar, etc.), and/or conditioning (burpees, box jumps, etc.), and/or “cardio” (running, rowing, double-unders). These movement categories are kept in a constant rotation to ensure balance and calculated variance.
How many, and which, movements we choose are based on day of the week, in large part. Mondays and Tuesdays we usually have a higher volume of members in the gym. For that reason, we don’t often do chippers, workouts with 4 or more movements (i.e. potentially lots of equipment), as there is often not quite enough room. Because we squat every Monday and Friday, when possible, we try to avoid high volume or heavy squats more than one day in the middle of the week.
Saturdays are typically Hero workouts. These are benchmark workouts that we prefer not to tweak or change too often. Silly as it may seem, those workouts were written with a person in mind, and we don’t like to make too many adjustments to them. When choosing a Hero workout each week, we simply look to see which movements we have not used recently, which will fit within the confines of a one-hour class, what workout can safely be done given space, equipment, and athlete capability.
The factors are many, but in the end we aim for safety, effectiveness, and balance when choosing what movements to perform, how many repetitions, the loading, the length of workout, etc. We want to constantly shrink the margins of our experience so as to broaden our base of fitness. We will implement new strategies, movements, and methodologies when appropriate and when we can.
The MetCon-only Day
After looking at the results of our benchmarking back in January and early February, it became apparent that we had a large number of athletes that were quite strong and proficient when it came to barbell lifts. However, those same athletes (in general and across the board, not any one or set of individuals in particular) were not as proportionately capable during benchmark workouts like Fight Gone Bad, or Fran. For example, we had a number of men in the gym that had 400+ deadlifts, 300+ back squats, but very few could go sub-4 minutes on Fran.
With that in mind, one day each week we will substitute our lift + a workout, for merely one, long workout. This will allow more time to develop gymnastics skills, and expose us to longer workouts more often, hopefully building up our cardiovascular engines a bit more. Which day of the week this is will be determined by where we are in our lifting cycles.
As ever, we are aiming to be as well-rounded as possible. You should be just as comfortable deadlifting heavy as you are running a 10-km or completing Isabel.
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