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CrossFit Box Owners: Are You Using a Health-Based Approach?

Articles / 30 November, 2017 /

By Karim El Hlimi

Here are some things I have heard from people who tried CrossFit and were not so pumped about it:

 «I was close to being sick, I don’t see the point. »

«I wasn’t sure about what I was doing but hey, it seems like it was accepted. »

« There are so many barbell lifts, I don’t want to bulk! »

Unfortunately, no one is wrong. Listen, as a box owner myself, I can’t argue given that back in the day, our mascot was a clown throwing up. Super easy to convince a motivated 19-year-old guy ready for any challenge, but not even an option to ask my mother. The goal is and has always been to bring in a high intensity workout with different training modalities so that people are always adapting to training diversity, and that’s how they progress. 5 rounds for time, AMRAP 8 minutes, every minute on the minute, go hard. This is some classic CrossFit, it works, and it will always work with anyone who wants to give it a go.

But now, take any sedentary person willing to make a life change and just ask them what they think about when you say « gym ». I don’t know about you, but back in Canada they think about machines, treadmills and free weights. CrossFit, meeeh, I don’t really know what it is, or, I’m not ready for that.

So, how can we change that ? How can we change that first perception, that first idea of what a gym is and should be?

Make your program more health-based

 You need to understand the difference between training an athlete who wishes to perform, and training an individual who wishes to have a better health. When I started CrossFit, I had 10 years of track and field in my pocket and I was really not ready for what was coming. I couldn’t keep up with everyone else’s intensity and the volume was too much for me. I felt like I had torn both of my pecs and couldn’t walk normally for 3 days. But I was 25, and I found it funny. Do the same with (again) my mother who is not as stubborn, I think I would have failed to convince her. Bang, CrossFit is too crazy (or some of you will probably say « you know what, that’s just not for her »).

10 years later, there are still super hard workouts programmed, and that’s a part of that type of training. But now how can we adapt that CrossFit thing ? If the goal is to change lives, to make training part of people’s life habits, to help them be in better physical and emotional shape and to have a positive impact on their health (ultimately), then your program needs to be structured around this goal.

The point is not to make your program for starters only, but to adapt to the reality of everyone’s needs and goals so it can be more attractive to those who would choose a regular gym instead of coming to see you! Here are some tips :

1) Use traditional training methods

Nothing is more efficient than traditional super-sets, or tri-sets. Take your barbell work and add any skills, and you’ve got some good CrossFit stuff. The focus here is to get some quality reps in the bank, getting more efficient at these exercises. It’s just enough reps so that you don’t fall into a zone where quality and efficiency is neglected. Build up with these so they can work better in a continuous format (like AMRAP 8min). Oh, and having a rest here and there makes people feel more secure: they can ask you questions in between, you can give more feedback and they better understand where you going with all that training.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Lower body #1

Olympic lifting + skills #1

————-

5 sets

A1.Power clean x5@70%, rest 1min

A2.Chest to bar pull ups 30sec of work, rest 1min

 

Upper body #1

 

Conditioning

 

Lower body #2 – structural

————

3 sets

A1.2KB front rack reverse lunges x8/s

A2.KB SLDL x12/s

A3.FLR on rings 30s

Rest 2min

Olympic lifting #2

 

 

Upper body #2

 

2) Add some bodybuilding or isolation work

If you want to be the gym reference in your area, start to introduce the importance of isolation work in your speech. Dumbbell curls are not a curse, neither are triceps extensions on the pulley. These are the basics of training and people like them. Don’t ask me why, but people like to feel a pump in their triceps. Any trainer will have the case of that girl with no training experience at all who wants to get better at rope climb, or pull ups. Adding some biceps isolation work will probably be one of the best work foundations you will ever give her! Add it to the end of the training as an accessory exercise.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Lower body #1

Olympic lifting + skills #1

————-

5 sets

A1.Power clean x5@70%, rest 1min

A2.Chest to bar pull ups 30sec of work, rest 1min

 

Upper body #1 + building

 ————

EMOM 10MIN

1: Strict pull ups

2: DB bench press x6

+

METCON

(not upper body based)

+

3 sets

C1.Zottman curl x15, r15s

C2.Banded triceps extension x20, r90s

 

Conditioning

 

Lower body #2 – structural

————

3 sets

A1.2KB front rack reverse lunges x8/s

A2.KB SLDL x12/s

A3.FLR on rings 30s

Rest 2min

 

Olympic lifting #2

 

 

Upper body #2

 

3) Cardiovascular training

Yeah, I know, you started CrossFit because you love to lift heavy barbells, and cardiovascular training sucks. But if you say it sucks, everyone else around you will think the same, so please, keep it to yourself and sell that idea that it’s one of the best things for them, because it is. Every single health organization has proved that doing cardiovascular training at a high to moderate intensity is one of the best solutions to any health problem. Add in some muscular training at moderate intensity, and you have everything you need. So, throw in some row, airbyke or running here and there, not only for 10 cal but for 2min and more. Have a specific day for it and if you really want them to improve their VO2max and have a nice endorphin rush, put it more than once per week! Oh, and my mother loves cardiovascular training and everyone can do it !

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Lower body #1

Olympic lifting + skills #1

————-

5 sets

A1.Power clean x5@70%, rest 1min

A2.Chest to bar pull ups 30sec of work, rest 1min

 

Upper body #1 + building

————

EMOM 10MIN

1: Strict pull ups

2: DB bench press x6

+

METCON

(not upper body based)

+

3 sets

C1.Zottman curl x15, r15s

C2.Banded triceps extension x20, r90s

 

Conditioning intervals

—————-

8x2min on 1min off

 

#1 – Row for calories

#2 – Max burpee box jump

Lower body #2 – structural

————

3 sets

A1.2KB front rack reverse lunges x8/s

A2.KB SLDL x12/s

A3.FLR on rings 30s

Rest 2min

 

Olympic lifting #2

 

 

Upper body #2

As you can see, there is a diversity in the training methods used, an in the exercises selected. There is also some structural work that looks like what people do in a regular gym in a private training format when the time comes to work on muscular balance. Remember, your goal is to get people in shape and have a positive impact on their health, so keep in mind that they have postural deficits, muscular imbalances, mobility deficits when you build your program instead of thinking of the best way to kill them. Make them learn and practice general and specific motor patterns, add load, then put in some complexity. Repeat the process. There is a cardiovascular portion that is very accessible which is a great door in for people who want to try for the first time. This is much less scary than coming in for a 3RM overhead squat and 21-15-9 of thrusters and pull ups. I’m not saying no to not use that, but my 2 cents is you need to make it accessible, smart and oriented toward health.

But What about your competitors

So, what about your competitive athletes (who represent 0.05% of your income for many of you and 50% for others)? Well, if you use this strategy with them, I’m 100% sure they will reap the benefits in their development. Perhaps they need more volume than only a 1h session, make sure there is room for that. Purchase a program that everyone will follow in conjunction with your regular class training (or you will fall in the « I don’t care about you, just bring in my money » category.

Conclusion :

If you want to help people, help everyone, athletes, my mother, me…everyone. Hire a coach that can take care of your clients and help them achieve their goals. If you have the environment, have an open gym section where your regular members can go to hit some extra work that you include in their regular program. Make the athletes and your members bond. You will see your community get stronger.

Hope this will help you in your work or give you some new ideas.

-KEH

 

 

 

 

 

Karim El Hlimi

Written by Karim El Hlimi

Karim is a strength and conditioning coach specialized in the physical development and preparation of Crossfit Athletes and owner of Rx Lab Performance and Gym Le Vestiaire (CrossFit Villeray) in Montreal.  You might spot him on television some morni…