It’s been the talk of the town in my gym as of late about programming, competitions, additional training, etc. What is truly the best programming model for achieving gains in fitness?

Here’s a list of common mistakes people make when subscribing to programming:

1. “Rich Froning does this. Jason Khalipa does that. We should try it.”

They want to try everything all the time. Listen, however the big dogs train to compete, there is most definitely a system in place. Think big picture, and get away from the sheer variety with which they train. They utilize periodization just like everyone else in conventional strength and conditioning. There are periods where they train for volume, because volume drives movement patterns: the more you do something, and the more often you do it, the move efficient you become. There are periods where they train for straight up output: How much can I pull in a single rep? How many repetitions can I accomplish unbroken, before my form breaks down? Then there are periods where they train for proficiency, getting all the little things right: when to start their second pull in a clean or snatch, when to hit the gas in a MetCon, or simply keeping the core tight and levers long in gymnastics movements. Where people get lost in the noise, and truly the beauty of CrossFit, is that you can attack each of these points of emphasis ALL THE TIME. But rest assured, there is a method to the madness, and there is a point of focus, regardless of the energy system being taxed, or the modality being worked.

2. “Have you tried a (Insert Scandinavian Name Here) Cycle to improve your squat max?”

They train out of context. Too many people too often adopt these fantastical training methodologies without reading the fine print. Many of the strength “cycles” out there for bench press, back squat, you name it, were put together in an environment that accounted for any and all external influences. The athletes that made the astronomical gains that create the foundation for whatever protocol’s popularity were guaranteed the rest needed for the body to recover from the loads, volume, and frequency of whatever the training demanded of them. Most people do not get enough sleep/rest (and yes, turning off your brain so your body can devote energy to recovery and repair is the biggie here), or the foundation of training to truly make the stimulus worth their while. Therefore, when their gains are minimal if any, and they are exhausted by the end, they are left wonder why this didn’t work for them when they Olympians the program was designed for killed it. That’s not to say they don’t work. As a matter of fact they can be quite the killer addition to your regimen, just keep in mind all the OTHER STUFF you may have going on that could inhibit those gains.

3. “I’ve been at this for almost a year and I still don’t have (insert skill here).”

You haven’t put in the deliberate practice. As I said earlier, volume drives consistency. If you’re not putting in the time on a consistent basis to promote the appropriate adaptation, you’ll never get anywhere. You need to be able to do one double under EVERY TIME before you can ever expect to get one hundred strung together. It’s probably a good idea to pick up a 225 pound deadlift before you expect to clean it. There is definitive progression to progress. There are certain steps that can not be skipped on the road from good to great.

4. “You’ve reached your ceiling.”

You’re not even close. When people say that you’ve reached your ceiling, DO NOT accept that. The reason it is an unrealistic expectation to walk into any given box to see what CrossFit is all about and try and fast track it to Regionals six months later is because you’re not even close to your ceiling. In reality, you’re closer to the floor. All things being equal if the top of human physical potential is equal for everyone, those athletes at the professional or Olympic levels are pretty damn close to the absolute top of that spectrum. The difference between you and them isn’t so much PHYSICAL AGE, but more importantly, TRAINING AGE. How many hours of dedicated practice do you have with respect to Games athletes. How many thousands of reps are you behind in your clean and jerk? How many ropes have you climbed over the course of your life? These are all questions you should ask yourself, and be honest with the answers before you start laying out your master plan to get you to the CrossFit Games next year.

5. “I don’t get it.”

They have no idea why they train the way they do. This one is my favorite. There has to be a method to the madness. It is our job as the coach to communicate the rationale, or at least be willing if asked to explain the “WHY”. This does two things: it creates confidence for your members that they are be lead in the right direction and furthers your credibility as a coach that you actually know what the hell you’re doing and understand the intent of any given workout if you’re not the one handling the programming.

At the end of the day, it does not matter. Do not hear me incorrectly, HOW YOU TRAIN means everything in terms of making progress. However, the model you follow, does not. Assuming that you follow something put together by someone who is knowledgeable and experienced, you should make progress. But when you jump from program to program, cherry picking your favorite workouts, lifts, or movements, you’ll never get to where you want to go. Be present, have faith in the process, hold yourself accountable, and be consistent. Do that, and I promise you’ll find success in fitness.

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