Is your CrossFit gym guilty of these 3 programming mistakes?

Is your CrossFit gym guilty of these 3 programming mistakes?

The above picture is some basic programming homework our Coaches did in a recent training. #alwayslearning

In the ‘working-out’ world, ‘programming’ refers to how  workouts are designed and implemented in both the short and long-term. Many gyms do things randomly. “Oh, that looks good”… or “Yeah, we haven’t done that in awhile.” This approach is haphazard and dangerous. The program you participate in should be thought-out, progressive and have purpose. It should adhere to  some fundamental concepts REQUIRED for long term success. The 3 most common mistakes we see are:

Every workout is a CRUSHfest or a test 
Ever heard of the any-asshole-workout?
It’s when random crap is just thrown together.
Any asshole could come up with it. Just because it’s a hard workout doesn’t mean it’s good, there always needs to be thought behind the workouts. And they should be of varying lengths and hit different energy systems – and the purpose of each workout should be communicated to those participating. If every day is just a crushing workout or a hard-ass tester, it’s a recipe for disaster. Over time progress will slow and then stop, or injury will occur, and you’ll stop anyway.

There are no progressions, ever.
Everything is random all the time. I know, I know, the unknown and unknowable. But the preparation for the unknown and knowable doesn’t have to be random. In fact, it shouldn’t be. When you’re trying to get stronger, you lift progressively heavier weights. That word ‘progressive’ is key. When you’re training to get fitter and faster, you have to build it – with novice athletes, anything is going to progress them. But ongoing success requires a thought-out program. Progressions should be present in group programming. Not every workout has to be part of a progression, but at least SOME should be, and the others should still make sense. Implementing smart and varied progressions guarantees progress at all levels.

Specific bodyparts are overworked
“100 pull-ups yesterday? We should do 100 again today to see how robust our shoulder girdle is…” Balancing workload across the body is very important. If you’re doing the same sorts of things day after day, problems will develop and injuries will occur. It’s not a mystery, overworking specific body parts is a big problem. It’s no wonder PT clinics love CrossFitters, most of the time we keep them in business.

Programming is as much science as it is art, and it should be taken seriously. The primary elements of training are how you move, and the combinations of movements themselves (workouts). Moving well takes practice, a coachable athlete and a good coach. Creating appropriate combination of movements (programming) requires someone with experience who understands those movements, the energy systems involved, and how to balance load and general volume. In a group environment, it remains a crucial element to long term athletic success.

We know, see and learn from other gym owners and coaches who do things right. But far more frequently things are done wrong…so, be careful, it’s a jungle out there. Keep your eyes and mind open – and remember, in the end, you’re responsible for your own learning and success.


  1. Bull shit programming for a Gen Pop group isn’t an art. U have to make them move
    Teaching Quality Movement is an Art and that’s what good Coaches do.
    Individual programming is valid but not an art just basic worked off reasonable goals

    • I can clearly see you’ve thought this through extensively. #cantarguewithlogic

  2. Very true, I believe that 6months should be planned in advance and on ramp wods should be planned weekly.:)

  3. This is an extremely well thought and articulated article, I don’t Crossfit, I do utilize HIIT as my primary form of Cardio, to supplement a weight training program. I have tried it, and to an extent I enjoyed it until I saw that the Workouts were similar, overworking, and actually causing me to lose Lean Muscle Mass from overtraining, Specifically doing C&J, or Squats daily does not allow for any recovery. Louie Simmons who is arguably the most knowledgeable strength Coach in the World, vehemently advocates a 72 hour rest between heavy targeted workouts.

  4. We should all also start recording these results for our members. Th day of the whiteboard and snapping shots on fb or ig has expired, y/n?

  5. Shouldn’t your members record their own results for themselves? If not, how do they know if they have improved over time? If they are working toward a goal, or PR, how do they track their own progress?

    Member; “I want to get 30 pull up in a set.”
    Coach; “How many can you do now?”
    Member; “Not sure, don’t you record that stuff? I guess like 12, maybe 14. I think I my best was 17 a couple months ago.”
    Coach; “Not for the long term. We write it on the white board, take a pic, post it on FB for convenience. But YOU should be recording in a journal to track YOUR progress long term.”

    If you’re working toward a goal, you know where you are at any given time. That’s the only way you know how to responsibly interact with your coach to structure your future training.

    BTW…Evernote has an app (paid unfortunately) that allows a snap of a white board to be uploaded into a pre-formatted template and accessed on a mobile device or printed. Set up with a calendar it makes a pretty cool training journal and interfaces well with formatted nutrition planning for those who want/need.

  6. @SC Individual programming isn’t an art? Obviously coming from someone who doesn’t know how to program. And you 2 above me…obviously others who don’t know how to program or you would notice that what’s in the picture (and written in the first line of the article) is PRACTICED PROGRAMMING, not people’s results.

  7. As is true in any workout regimen preparation is the key. Knowing what your specific goals for you box is different than knowing how and what to train as an individual. At CFHSV our Head Trainer has the foresight and knowledge to know whats going to work best in metabolic and strength training for the masses and he also can tailor a plan for the individual CrossFit athlete depending on goals and experience. These box’s that crop on each corner that all they do is Hero and named WOD’s are short lived because they don’t grow you as an athlete they just disappoint the large majority of those people who want to be in the best shape possible.
    -My 2 Cents

  8. Good article. Mirrors in a CrossFit gym? Please tell me they were already there when you moved in lol

    • Ha! That’s in our yoga room… sometimes I go up there to flex though. Naked.

  9. What’s wrong with mirrors? I know athletes potentially turn their heads in slightly unnatural positions with mirrors, but I have found that some just need to see their body mechanics and positions to become aware of where they are in space. One midsize mirror on one wall, include it in beginner programming for better success with some athletes.

    • I don’t suppose there’s anything inherently WRONG with mirrors, other than the basic idea that they tend to promote or at least are associated with a narcissistic culture that cares more about appearance than performance. Personally I think the development of kinesthetic awareness, proprioception, is not obtained from a mirror, but through feeling what the position feels like via feedback from your body, and feedback and cues from a good coach. Although a mirror might be useful for other purposes in the gym, like maybe for spotting some sneaky bro-reps when members think your back is turned haha


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: