Cycles: stop wasting your clients time

I still don’t understand why coaches that program for CrossFit boxes subscribe to a linear model of programming.

And I’m not sure how linear based cycles and CrossFit became connected because the two could NOT be any more unfit to be married.

In group programming, we have many limitations, many of which can not be overcome simply by guessing or asking questions.

More importantly, we don’t have a glimpse into the stressors of our clients lives outside of the gym, but we know everyone has an inherent level of stress.

I’m not going to waste your time today so I’ll get right to the point. Here is my list of why should avoid this form of programming at your facility like the plague.

  • Lose one thing in an effort to gain another: Often times, in an effort to develop one quality, you neglect other areas of fitness. For example, it’s not uncommon to see losses in maximal strength when strength-endurance is targeted. Similarly, when power-development is targeted, it’s not uncommon to see losses in muscular hypertrophy. The list goes on.
  • “Peaking” is NOT realistic: Shit happens and we have bad days. The premise of trying to adhere to strict guidelines with programming does not account for this and the objective of trying to be your best for one day doesn’t have any bearing on your clients’ goals.
  • Peoples schedules change: How can we run a cycle not knowing who is to going show up at the crux of the cycle when intensity is highest? Great some people will get results, while others don’t.
  • No one cares: If you think your general population folks give a shit about increasing their 1RM Deadlift, think again. Most want to look and feel better and could care less about powerlifting. Even still, we can increase these lifts of a helluva a lot more effectively by using the Conjugate Method (Westside Barbell Deadlift average is 860# and they DON’T DEADLIFT!)
  • New clients: What about your clients that just started taking group classes and enter on week 8 of your 10-week cycle? What are they going to do? Well, they’ll probably be confused as you know what which brings me to my next point.
  • Confusing: Some people know their maxes, but many do not. Using percentages is a great way to remove the fun from your classes and confuse your clients; calculators have no place in your classes.
  • Does NOT assess limiting factors: Most that are limited with compound movements are not limited by the movement itself, but by the primary movers that assist the lifts. Want your squat and deadlift to go up? Increase the strength of your clients’ glutes, hip, and hamstrings and get back to me.
  • Accommodation: The human body is smart and adapts quickly. After 3-weeks your clients will suffer diminishing returns. The point at which you begin to accommodate to the same movement pattern is the same point at which you start to go backward with your progress. This is why we rotate variations for max effort and dynamic effort regularly.
  • It’s f’in BORING: Please for the love of God do your own programming! If you’re cool with doing the same shit for 12-weeks then your probably cool with bird-watching too, but MOST type-A people that are drawn to CrossFit are drawn to novelty. Really who wants to do the same squat, press, and deadlift for longer than 3 weeks!?
  • Overuse injury is more common: It’s not unreasonable to think that if you’re performing the same movement patterns every week with increasing levels of intensity that you will invariably compensate, exacerbating faulty motor patterns thereby increasing the risk of injury.
  • No missed days: The overall success of your cycle is highly dependent on your athletes’ attendance so if your athletes miss a week for whatever reason (which is quite common with group classes) the results can be significantly different across your client base.
  • Highly individual: Performing 3 x 2 @90% of your 1RM for your experienced athletes these sets may be relatively smooth, whereas your beginner/intermediate athletes will have a difficult time performing doubles (even for 3 sets) with 90%. This will be even more noticeable in a group setting if you’re having new folks start midway through a cycle.
  • Retention suffers: You’re a chance of losing folks out of sheer boredom is much higher with this style of programming. Most athletes that attend a local CrossFit box love novelty and having a rotation of movement patterns which keeps these trainees engaged in the process.
  • Autoregulate: Going off of percentages negates how someone is feeling on a given day. Look, we all have stress and need to be able to autoregulate if we aren’t “feeling it.” With linear work, you can miss the boat on vital aspects of the cycle because you had a shitty week outside of the gym.
  • Mental set-backs: At any given point during a maximal strength cycle you might have set-backs which may make the written work not realistic on a given day. How do you think your folks are going to feel if they cannot perform the prescribed work? I can tell you from MANY personal experiences with linear work that it’s a shitty feeling to know you’ve gone backwards when you consider the time and effort you’ve put in.
  • Human beings are dynamic: It makes no sense as far as human biology is concerned trying to train the dynamic human body in a linear fashion.

The over-arching goal is to provide well-rounded fitness 365 days a year to your group athletes; being your best at a moments notice NOT for one or two days out of the year.

Keep in mind, we are not trying to transform anyone into a powerlifter, Olympic lifter, endurance athlete, or bodybuilder with this approach, but your folks will make progress with their lifts, gaining lean muscle mass, and their aerobic ability if we do not neglect any of the special strengths and all forms of conditioning.

Most importantly, our clients need to have fun! Trying to stick to the same program, with the same movements, for extended periods of time = not fun.

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