Narrow-grip floor press 5-5-5
Dumbbell or kettlebell seated presses 8-8-8
3 rounds of:
10 dips ring, bar or box dips
10 handstand push-ups/push-ups
I believe evaluating a gym by its “top athletes” is a pointless pastime.
Over the years, I’ve had a few people tell me we must run a good gym because we have some great competitors. That might be true, but it might not. I always thank people for the compliment to our athletes and our staff, but I never let it affect how I evaluate CrossFit 204.
No disrespect is intended toward our competitors. They are high-profile representatives of what we do, and we care about them a lot and support them without reserve. We also work to help them achieve their goals, as we would with any other member, and their success means we are indeed serving their needs. But competition is influenced by too many variables and provides a very poor foundation for analysis of a gym as a whole.
Here’s why: If Rich Froning had shown up at CrossFit 204 four years ago, I bet we could have coached him to a win at the CrossFit Games. Perhaps not, but I think we would have had to work pretty hard to keep an athlete like that from succeeding. I think Froning could have shown up at any one of 10,000 CrossFit gyms and then won the Games. Some might have done a better job training him, and others worse, but in the end I think the results would have been the same. Some athletes are so good that you just have to get out of their way. Would his success reflect the quality of the gym he trained at? Maybe, but no one can be certain.
Here’s another example: When Aaron first came to the gym, I got him on the rings, and before I could even explain what I wanted him to do, he had completed a muscle-up. Did that make me a great coach? Nope. I just got matched up with a gifted athlete. Of course I told him I was the greatest coach in the world, and we both had a good laugh.
I actually evaluate our facility by our least-experienced athletes, the people who perhaps don’t walk through the doors with outstanding levels of strength, skill, endurance and coordination. These people might not consider themselves athletes and might not have an extensive training history. Some have never worked out before.
But are we able to make them better? Are they moving well? Are their numbers improving? Are they getting fitter? Are they having fun and making fitness part of their lives?
I ask those questions regularly, and the answers help me determine if we’re serving our clients properly.
Here’s another way I evaluate: I look at all the athletes in a class and see how the least-experienced athlete is moving. A good example is a snatch class. You might have a line of people running from the whiteboard to the back door with loads ranging from 12 lb. to 250. Eyes are often drawn to the big loads, but I think smart coaches pay equal attention to the 12-lb. snatch because that’s where the greatest opportunity lies.
We’re obviously just as driven to make 250 into 270, but what if the athlete snatching 12 lb. is struggling to open her hips and find the coordination to complete the lift? What if you give her a few cues and suddenly the bar snaps overhead and she receives it with wide eyes and a new sense of what her body can do? What if she’s lifting 33 lb. well a few classes later, and what if eight or 10 months later 12 has turned into 112? That’s an 833 percent improvement—and athleticism has been created, in addition to confidence and fitness.
I believe that if you can take a brand new lifter and turn a 12-lb. snatch into a solid 112, or even 53, you’ll be able to improve the numbers for experienced athletes. I don’t think the reverse is always true. Coaching an athlete to a first muscle-up is the hard part. After that, coaching her to do 30 in a workout is relatively easy.
And so we focus on perfect PVC deadlifts, first pull-ups and beautiful air squats. If we see those things in athletes who didn’t move that way when they came to us, we’re certain to see athletes succeed in competition as well.
And, more importantly, we’re certain to see improved fitness for all our members, which we believe is the true measure of quality for a gym.
In 20 minutes, work up to a high-hang-clean triple
3 rounds of:
7 cleans (135/95 lb.)
7 front squats (135/95 lb.)
30 wall balls (20/14 lb., 10/9 feet)
Rest 1 minute between rounds
15 MINUTES TO WORK UP TO A HEAVY SET OF 5 SHOULDER PRESSES
3 ROUNDS OF:
16 FRONT-RACK WEIGHTED STEP-UPS (135/95 lb.)
In 10 minutes, work up to 1 heavy muscle clean
Concentrate on a great bar path, and get the elbows around the bar quickly.
Tall cleans 3-3-3
No dip, no drive. Just shrug under the bar.
2-position clean with pause 1-1-1
Start from the floor and pull to just below the knee, then pause. Ensure weight is back on heels and shins are vertical. Slide up to pockets and clean the weight. Bring the bar back to the hips, dip with the torso vertical to the high hang position, ensure the weight is on the heels, then clean the weight again.
ROMANIAN DEADLIFTS 6-6-6-6
TABATA STRICT TOES-2-BARs
3 sets of 1-minute PLANK HOLDS
Almost no one knows about the most inspiring athletes at CrossFit 204.
For the last five months, we’ve been running a twice-a-week program called 204 Legends. It’s designed for senior athletes or older athletes whose fitness goals are slightly different than those who attend our general group classes. Our Legends athletes are focused not on learning muscle-ups or handstand push-ups but on preserving and reclaiming functionality.
The Legends group currently trains Mondays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. The program features a very low coach-to-athlete ratio and is designed to help older athletes get fit and improve or maintain their lifestyles.
To begin, an athlete spends about four sessions one-on-one with a coach to learn movements and address any mobility issues or other concerns. A bit of stiffness or an old hockey injury are common at this age, and we can work around them as we learn about the athlete. When necessary, we work with athletes’ health-care providers to ensure all activity is safe and reasonable. We’ve found doctors are ecstatic that their patients want to be more active. After the athletes are comfortable with the movements and we know their strengths and limitations, we introduce them to twice-a-week group classes.
Make no mistake: the members of our Legends crew certainly care about improving and getting stronger and faster, but it’s less about putting numbers on the whiteboard and more about long-term health and function.
What’s really great is that we’re doing CrossFit with them. We simply modify movements and apply very moderate amounts of intensity. In this class, intensity might be slowly squatting to a box with only body weight as resistance to start. That level of intensity might slowly increase to include a small dumbbell as resistance, and we might remove the box at some point. Then we might add a light barbell, and then a heavier one after that.
The idea is progressive overload with strength work, and we take the same approach with conditioning. Walking briskly might become running, which might become pushing a sled or using a rowing machine.
The overall goal is safely improving both strength and conditioning. And “intensity” just means “a little further than yesterday.” We apply that same principle to the mobility and flexibility work that’s included in every class.
Here’s an example of an entire class:
- Rowing warm-up
- Core work: 3 sets of 10 lying leg raises
- 10 minutes of various hip-mobility work
- Back squat: 4 sets of 6
- Group shoulder prehab including work on the deltoids and external rotators
- Conditioning: 3 rounds of a 250-m row, 15 ball slams (12 lb.) and 15 Russian kettlebell swings (15 lb.)
Interestingly enough, this workout could easily be scaled up to provide a challenge to our top athletes.
The best part is that the body of a senior athlete responds like the body of a younger athlete, if slightly more slowly. We can improve levels of strength and conditioning, and we hope to help our older athletes retain muscle mass, increase bone density and improve their cardiovascular systems—all things that will help people live a healthy life and avoid injury.
As for results, we’re seeing them. Just as the numbers are increasing for our members in our evening group classes, numbers are changing for our Legends athletes. As but one example, one gentleman was surprised to find he can now run 800 m without stopping.
As I said at the beginning, these are some of our most inspiring athletes, not because of their deadlift records or competition results but because they’re using fitness to bring vitality and energy to their lives.
They’re role models for me, and I hope to be just like them one day. I also hope our younger clients will continue a lifelong pursuit of fitness so they can become parents and grandparents who will be role models for the younger generation.
If you are an older adult who’d like to get fitter, or if you have someone in your life who would benefit from this program, email email@example.com. The cost for each intro session is $52.50 (GST included), and the coach and athlete will determine the exact number of sessions together. It’s usually about four. After that, group classes are $105 per month (GST included). Class space is limited to preserve an ideal coach-to-athlete ratio. If there’s demand, we’ll look at increasing the number of group classes every week.