Periodization – Your Secret Weapon for More Effective CrossFit Performance


“Training for any random task does not mean randomly training for any task.” – Greg Everett

Random seems to be a buzz word for many within the CrossFit community. Being that the movement began around the concept of  “constantly varied, if not randomized, functional movement performed at high intensity,” practitioners like to focus on the variation and the randomization. It is made worse by the competitive nature. You can turn on ESPN and watch the CrossFit Games, and see epic WODs being performed. Surely, to prepare for these tests, you need to study appropriately?

The WOD has become somewhat problematic among the novices of CrossFit. The focus seems to have shifted towards “work as hard as possible, as fast as possible, as random as possible.” While this would work well to increase general levels of fitness, it fails to address weakness, and this weakness is of the literal and figurative sense. Training everything hard, all at once causes one to fall into the “jack of all trades, and master of none” category. If you want to develop mastery over a weakness, you cannot prioritize everything equally.

Periodization, or breaking a training schedule down into blocks of time (periods!) devoted to training certain aspects, is something more strongly associated with traditional strength and conditioning methods. With CrossFit’s focus on being good at everything, it is easy to fall off that old school wagon of periodization. Because the idea of periodization requires that a period be focused heavily on one aspect, and other aspects are relegated merely to maintenance level work. I.e., you’re not constantly getting mo betta at “something” at any given time. The reality of periodization is that it allows for more progression across the board, while performing less training volume.

Literal Weakness

While CrossFit Games competitors are generally quite strong, across the entire population of CrossFitters, strength is generally lesser when compared to the conditioning capacity. Most CrossFitters are fit as hell, and just kinda strong. This is a result of poor programming and almost zero periodization. For a crew of folk who live by the motto “outrun a lifter, outlift a runner,” it is hard to accept moments where metabolic conditioning needs to take a back seat. This results in not enough training volume devoted to strength work. A well structured program might include a strength block, where your metabolic work or cardio is merely at maintenance levels. But if you do not drop that work down a notch, your body will not be able to adapt to  the strength work.

Figurative Weakness

Less common in the CrossFit community are people who are just strong, with poor conditioning. They are strong, but they have weakness. And their weakness is addressed with similar planning of training blocks. And like the lifter who has high levels of fitness, his strength work will have to take a back seat to improving aerobic capacity and metabolic conditioning.

Just remember, periodization does not mean you have to give up on  improvement. You will actually see more improvement overall with a properly implemented program with blocks that are designed to meet your needs.

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