In this blogpost I’d like to take a closer look at the progress of athletes from different levels (beginner, intermediate and competitive CrossFitters) and someone who chose to not do CrossFit at all and just focus on powerlifting. Let me start off by saying I’m super happy with the results of all our consistently training members over the last months/year. Especially since we’ve seen progress with athletes of all different levels, even though they all trained under the same style of programming.
Currently we offer 35 hours of CrossFit classes per week (ranging from 12 to 20 people per class), 4 weekly Powerlifting classes, 5 Olympic Weightlifting classes and 5 Open Platform hours for (advanced) members to work on their technique on their own. This means that “the programming” in our box is not a singular thing.
The most complex and most followed programming is the CrossFit programming, which is done by an expert: CrossFit FSF head coach, CrossFit HQ Flowmaster, Lvl1/2 Seminar Staff member and all-around loud American Nolan Mooney. The programming for the weightlifting classes is done by Jeremy and I myself am responsible for the powerlifting programming. All our coaches can however give a member specific movements or drills to work on during Open Platform hours as well if they need to work on something apart from the available programming (if they have very specific weaknesses or very specific moment based goals: a 100kg bench or snatch, a first strict pull-up, handstand pushup, etc etc). Tim – our performance therapist – provides people with their own mobility or (p)rehab homework on top of that. All that combined means that as an athlete at UnScared, you could be and will be exposed to expert programming in multiple disciplines. It also means that our programming can be adjusted to your goals by choosing wisely which classes you take and how often you take them.
I chose these people as examples specifically because they A) trained consistently for months on end B) have been with us since very early C) are people I know very well, which gave me the chance to monitor their progress even more closely.
Beginner CrossFitter – Tamina
Background: Now I know that analyzing beginner progress in CrossFit or strength training is not something to boast about, because a beginner will always make progress at the start. They basically have to look at a barbell and will get stronger. Tamina however is a special case because she has never really done any kind of sports for longer than a couple of weeks, yet showed a lot of potential to get strong really fast.
Training for: 8 months, CrossFit 3-5x a week.
- Back Squat: 50kg > 100kg
- Strict Pull-Ups: 0 > 7
- Strict Push-Ups: 0 > 21
- Strict Handstand Push-upS: 0 > 1
- Fran time: 8:52 (banded pull-ups with a green band + 25kg thrusters) > 6:45 Rx’d
Intermediate CrossFitter – Edward
Background: I think this group of CrossFitters is the most challenging group to ensure progress for. They already have a base level of skills and strength and usually have big ambitions to go competitive at some point and therefore a high risk of doing too much and getting injured. Edward had been doing CrossFit (both by himself and at another affiliate) for over a year and had pretty good numbers to begin with. He will also start coaching at UnScared from 2016.
Training for: 7 months, CrossFit 4-5 times a week + at least a weightlifting/powerlifting class added
- Clean: 106kg > 120kg
- Snatch: 85kg > 101kg
- Overhead Squat: 100kg > 111kg
- Squat: 135kg > 150kg
- Bench: 97.5kg > 115kg
- Deadlift: 170kg > 180kg (yes, you’re allowed to laugh, I tease him with this all the time)
- Grace: 3:11 > 2:27
- Fran: 5:40 > 3:50
Competitive CrossFitter – Madelon
Background: Madelon was a diamond in the rough. She was already at a competitive level when she joined UnScared and my instinct was to write specific programming for her. I experimented with just letting her do the normal UnScared programming for CrossFit and letting her work on her weightlifting and leg strength in the specialty classes and she developed amazingly.
Training for: 7 months, CrossFit 5 times a week, occasional extra skillwork / specialty classes
We didn’t really measure her starting point too well, but she went from 1 ugly half-strict muscle up in the rings, to being able to do sets of 5+ kipping (ring and bar) muscle-ups and also string strict muscle-ups together with ease. She started off with weak legs (60kg front squat), but recently hit an easy 80kg clean. She also qualified for the final of every competition she did the qualifiers of and finished Top 10 in three big national competitions (Lowlands Throwdown, Tiglon Series #1 and #3).
Powerlifter – Nick
Background: Nick was one of the first guys to join the gym and had been doing some powerlifting programs to build his strength in a commercial gym for a while. He also had the whole powerlifter look going: beard, tattoos, a belly. I’d tried to convince him to do CrossFit, but after one metcon he almost hated me, so he only did the powerlifting classes. And with great success. Also: I always liked Nick cause he was the only powerlifter I know who has a worse bench than mine.
Training for: 8 months, powerlifting classes 3x a week
- Squat: 135kg > 185kg
- Bench Press: 62.5kg > 85kg
- Deadlift: 160kg > 210kg
- Bodyweight: stayed the same
Of course, these three members are just a fraction of our 200+ member base, but it proves that the same kind of programming can provide gains and progress for people at all different levels, as long as you know how to approach the training frequency, intensity and focus point for each individual athlete.
Apart from all the other coaches at UnScared, I’d really like to thank Nolan specifically, his rather unique take on CrossFit programming seems to fit very much to UnScared’s training philosophy. By focusing on strength, skill and movement patterns as the foundation of every training cycle and drastically limiting the amount of long grueling workouts, people are not just “going to break a sweat” or “die for 60 minutes”. They’re going to learn something new and improve their fitness in more domains than just strength and endurance. By making sure that the MetCon itself is only going to take up a small part of the hour the class takes - and by giving all strength work it's own day instead of combining it with endurance work every singly time - Nolan's style of programming ensures that coaches are being given the time and tools to make sure all their athletes leave every single class as better movers.