Programming For CrossFit

Building the jigsaw

We often get asked how we program our everyday sessions. Knowing how we plan these can help you add goals and understand principles of ‘why’ you do certain things!

Our first step towards programming for CrossFit, is to create a base plan on what our goals are. For gym based programming we need to have our generalised goals looking to build on the 10 components of fitness which are ⬇️

So what are some of the things we think about?!

  1. We need to build mechanics before any form of intensity and strength work is applied.
  2. Being strong is extremely important to minimising injuries and maximising training benefits. But your strength must be balanced.
  3. When programming the energy systems and WOD’s consider the different time frames that you can work for. The majority of WODS should fit within the 6 – 12 minute mark.
  4. You’re NOT training elite athletes (Except Ben Paynter).
  5. There is no perfect program, don’t overthink the small details.
  6. Learn from the programs successes and failings.

After considering these things and creating goals we build a template. Once this is created we begin to add the pieces to the jigsaw. Some of the things we have to consider are:

How to program Strength and Power based training

Programming strength and power based training can be extremely hard in a group/class environments due to vast ranges of different genetic types i.e.: muscle types, muscle mass, CNS strength, mechanical ability and psychology.

The first and foremost consideration is that the cycle needs to be available for all to complete. For instance programming a westside barbell (Strength and Dynamic cycle) using bands, chains and complex movements wont work in a class environment and will only work for the more experienced athlete.

Our next consideration is that the cycle must help improve the higher level athlete and not allow them to plateau (easier said than done). This is often only through trial and error, finding how to implement the different cycles.

Olympic lifting programming 

In a gym format program what are the benefits of oly lifting?:

  • Enjoyment
  • Technique and kinaesthetic awareness
  • Power output


  • High skill
  • Injury
  • Deficiencies?

Obviously all of the above depend on how they are adapted into the program/cycle. We aim to minimise olympic lifting to once every 6/7 cycle days. This doesn’t mean that we cant make the most of when we do lift. Firstly strength is a huge limiter in olympic lifting abilities, so all of your squatting and hinge work will improve the lifts naturally. When we do include lifts into class the main aim should be to increase how technically proficient they are. Based on this, load can be decided according to the ability of a lifter.

When thinking about power based work consider if there are more effective ways to develop power in a class environment other than Olympic Weightlifting.

Finally how do you choose movements and input them into a program:

  1. Variation is important for beginners – This helps improve awareness of the body during the different sections of lifts.
  2. The full lifts should be conducted more than break downs – Here you should be thinking about getting more bang for your buck. Your member is going to learn a lot more and get more by doing the full Clean/Power Clean than doing clean pulls.
  3. Power variants are more beneficial to members – Minimising technique and maximising output.
  4. If performing multiple movements in one class high complex movements should come first.
  5. Alternate between the snatch and clean/jerk.
  6. Keep an eye on how much overhead work you’re performing.
  7. Look to follow percentages/numbers based on program overview.

Other power based movement ideas:

  • Sprinting
  • Jumping
  • Speed lifts
  • Hip extension movements and drills

Programming Gymnastics into a cycle

There are two types of gymnastics:

  • Strict
  • Dynamic

Based on the 10 components of fitness, we know speed and power are the essence. However in order to achieve or enhance these qualities, we have to improve the neurological components and the physical components.

The challenge is that sometimes members willingly surrender quality and form because they put too much emphasis on the clock, competition, and intensity. As a coach, you must educate and explain why it is beneficial to shift focus toward form and quality and away from simply finishing a workout fast or RX. Convincing athletes strict movement should be mastered before kipping might be a challenge, but consider the risk vs. reward. How long have they been doing CrossFit? How long do they plan on doing CrossFit? We hope they plan on training for the rest of their lives, which is why we want their muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments to be strong and healthy.

You’re looking to develop pulling, pressing and midline strength. These can be achieved through intensity as a percentage of your max, volume as a number of repetitions, or time under tension.

Remember a gymnastics cycle is supplementary to a box program. The easiest way to implement gymnastics is to pick 2/3 movements and cycle through them weekly. As we said before building the base strength is extremely important to future proof and progress so you can implement gymnastics basics into warm ups to supplement the 2/3 movements you’re working on in the cycle.
LiftImprovement in the hollow and arch body positions will be beneficial to everything you do. Do handstands, support holds, static holds, inchworms. More exposure to these movements often goes a long way. Have fun and get creative!

The art of programming and writing WODs

This is usually one of the hardest yet enjoyable things to do. When you’ve built the layers of the program you want to finish it by designing the metcons and warm ups. Here are some basic considerations:

  1. Energy systems – Working the correct range of energy systems is really important. This allows them to progress in the correct manner without affecting the rest of the program and keeping the body under balance.
  2. Effectiveness of movements: Is the person actually doing the movement properly or are they getting a completely different training output.
  3. Is it scalable and is it hard enough for the experienced member?
  4. Is it coachable?
  5. Are they varied yet controlled?

When programming the final part of the large jigsaw you must check that all of the pieces fit together and don’t have an affect on other days. Programming is a complicated beast which takes a long time to understand and can never be perfected.

We continuously look to improve and change every cycle our members complete. We are always looking for them to have FUN and IMPROVE!

Programming For CrossFit:

Jack Fleckney