Written by Oliver Smith – owner of and CFL2 at CrossFit Infinitum.
The norm for a class in most CrossFit gyms around the world is to have a strength component followed by a metcon. I have done it this way in the past both as an athlete and as a coach. I never liked it as an athlete and definitely not as a coach. And here is why…
As an athlete having 10 to 15min to get to the heaviest weight of a movement was never enough time for me and when I looked around the room I could see that other people felt the same. And when I chatted with them after the session, they would say they didn’t have enough time to get to the max for the day. Which left them and myself just a little frustrated. Now I get that an argument could be made for better time management on the athlete’s side and that is a separate discussion, for another time.
As a coach doing a strength and metcon component in one class was always difficult for me because it was more often then not, very rushed. Smash through the warm up. Rush through the skill so that they can lift. Rush the lifts so that we can do the metcon. Timecap the metcon so we have time to cool down and stretch. And as someone committed to quality coaching I wasn’t doing that. I was a traffic controller. And the whole shemozzle was compounded if we had a technical movement in both the strength and metcon, that had to get taught which usually meant the 20min time cap I had on the metcon now became a 15min time cap. Or no cool down or stretch. And heaven forbid if there was a lot of setup to do. Timeline. What timeline?
Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination. On those days I earned my money. And in retrospect a very good learning curve for me as a coach.
When I opened my own affiliate and started doing the programming, my workaround was to only do a strength component if we had a sub-15-minute metcon. Which worked fairly well. And I was still not satisfied. After a chat with one of my members (from my first affiliate) who would regularly travel for work. He went into a gym in the USA where they had a separate strength and metcon class. When he told me about it I was inspired. I thought that was genius. It is a long time ago now and if memory serves, the gym was CrossFit Lalanne that he went to and did the separate classes. At the time I was not able to implement that structure. My business partner and fellow coach really liked the 2-for-1. I sat with it for a while and looked at ways I would implement it when I got the chance.
Implementation of separate classes.
I took over CrossFit Infinitum in Nov 2014 and in January 2015 I implemented the separate classes and have been doing it ever since. There was some resistance initially. I checked in with the community to make sure they were happy with the new structure. Then after 3 months or so I did a survey asking them how they felt about the split classes, amongst other stuff. At the time it was a narrow 60/40 for split classes. I took that and ran with it. I have tweaked the structure and programming of the split classes over the last 3 years. And have come up with a formula that I think works very well. And always looking at ways to improve. I did a few more surveys over a 2 year period to make sure people were still happy with the structure. The surveys were usually done a couple of months after I made a change. Those surveys came back favourable for the separate classes. I haven’t asked since then if people like the split classes; as separate strength and metcon classes is what we do at CrossFit Infinitum. It’s one of our points of difference.
The rationale (method behind the madness)
I split my classes for a number of reasons and some of them are (in no particular order):
- enough time can be given to the teaching of a new (new to them) skill,
- athletes can give their max in the class,
- there is time to do a comprehensive warm-up,
- we have time to teach or review a movement,
- athletes have time to set up for the workout (adjust loads, height, reps – if required),
- time to do the workout with no time cap.
- the athlete gets the benefits of giving 100% to the strength class or,
- the athlete gets the benefits of giving 100% to the metcon class. Go home rest, recover and come back the next day.
- as opposed to holding back in the strength component so they can go hard in metcon. Or killing the strength and having nothing left for the metcon, and
- of course, if people have the time and the fitness they can always do a double class.
The timetable is set up so that if you train at the same time every day you will get a mixture of strength and metcon. However, what I say to everyone is just train. Doesn’t matter what class it is, just come in and train. Gains will be made. If you then want to put some sort of structure in place, then use the number of training days a week as a guide. What I mean by that is, if you train 3 or fewer days a week. Do metcons. More bang for your buck in terms of fitness gains. If you train 4 or more times a week get at least 1 strength class in. If you train 5+ sessions a week then at you must do 1 strength class and possibly 2. Having said all that, above all else, just train. It’ll even itself out, over time. The other advantage to the separate class is that you can choose to either do metcons only or strength only. How good is that?!?