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Ask the coach

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Hey folks,

Welcome to our new monthly segment called “Ask the coach” This is where you will be able to email us with questions you have in regards to anything pertaining to your health and fitness. You might get the occasional dating advice. Depends on my mood. This months question that will be answered is


How do the daily WODS get programmed?


The CrossFit programming is done by me on a weekly basis. I usually sit on a Friday night and create the following weeks line up.  This is probably why I’m single. Most guys my age are out on the town rocking out. Im home with my head deep in video footage, reading material and too much Face Book. Im a CrossFit geek. Its true.


Although things may seem to be random there is a method to the madness in how we actually come up with the following weeks pain errrr workouts. I have a huge white board and craft out day by day what our work load will look like. The programing may change but there are basic principles in which we always adhere to. CrossFit creator and CEO Coach Greg Glassman simply defined fitness as being Constantly varied using functional movements performed with high intensity. The emphasis on variance, function and intensity.


I diagram the week looking ahead as well as looking back at all the workouts we have ever done. Then I come up with the skeleton and over view. One or two heavy days, a long day, ( high volume/aerobic activity ) a short day (think of  a FRAN) and then the rest of the week the met-cons are designed to take anywhere from 8-15 mins long. Obviously more is involved but thats a quick view of what the week will usually look like. I try to be as creative as possible by blending the right combinations of movements, time domains, rep ranges and weight loads to make it effective and keep you on your toes. Think ladders and chippers. I love those like I love cookies.


You can count on each day being very different from the last and each day will be a challenge. There are no easy days. Every day you wake up life will throw something unexpected at you. Your day is never the same as the day before. In CrossFit we manifest that into our training and thinking. We live and train for the challenge that we will be prepared for anything life has in store for us.


With our current programming format our goal is to put you in a position to be successful by getting the time you need to learn, practice and apply within a workout. Your warm up, work load and Met-cons will all be reflective of each other to increase your exposure to the movements through out the workout. Think about what our main goal is. “To increase your work capacity over broad time and modal domains”  That is what we are trying to achieve as CrossFit athletes and participants. By doing so the results are in the pudding that you will be a successful cross-fitter, in the best shape of your life and one hell of a bad ass.


I learned CrossFit program design from one of the best in the game. My coach and mentor Dennis Marshall Head coach and owner from CrossFit Garden City who is also on the Reebok HQ Coaching seminar staff and teaches program design at the coach’s prep course, (advance CF course)  Which BTW if you all watched the games this weekend, he was the judge for the top mens division and was Rich Fronings judge on the last WOD. When it comes to program design for a membership box he simply puts it this way:


“The first thing that is ALWAYS considered is the underlying objective of our program, which is to develop your capacity across as broad a range of movements, skills and time durations as possible.  The type of fitness we are trying to develop is broad and general and requires competency in the following areas:

  • Cardio respiratory Endurance
  • Stamina
  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Coordination
  • Accuracy
  • Agility
  • Balance

In order to ensure we are touching upon each of these areas and creating balance across all ten of them, we must incorporate as much variety as possible on a daily, weekly, monthly and long-term basis.

The different elements of each workout that we can vary are:

  • Duration of effort (short, medium, long)
  • Workout scheme (number of different exercises, “For Time” or “AMRAP”, etc)
  • Movements/Exercises
  • Reps/Loading (high rep/light weight, low rep/heavy weight, moderate rep/moderate weight, etc.)
  • Equipment (barbells, dumbbells, bodyweight, etc.)”

Determining what we will be doing on any given day is a function of looking at which of these elements have and have not been covered over the past week. If a certain element is missing from the past week’s workouts, there is a good chance that it will show up in the next day or so.

By constantly manipulating these elements day-to-day, week-to-week, we can come up with infinite variety in our workouts and expose you all to as many different types of stimulus as possible.  This allows for continual adaptation and progress in all areas…which is exactly what we want! ” 


By trusting in the programming you will get everything you need by coming in 4-5 days per week. You will get your weight lifting, gymnastics, endurance, mobility all in and ultimately will be able to greatly improve in all areas as the weeks go by. This is of course if you are not cherry picking workouts and are coming in 4-5 days per week. Missing things you NEED means your missing  out on golden opportunities to improve your overall fitness levels and skills sets . A big no no if you want to be a successful CrossFitter or rather see results.


This is a broad over view of how the process is done. There are a few more factors that are involved in the day to day process of constructing our programming. I have designed fitness programs for athletes, large companies such as Men’s Health magazine and Hugo Boss employees. The CrossFit methodolgy is by far the most efficient method that is out there. Id like to say it is an opinion but if you looked at this years CrossFit games you would see that having a smart and broad fitness program will be the key to being able to be physically fit and capable of any task that stands in your way.  If you dont believe so then why did you choose to do CrossFit?


The one thing to remember is there is a big difference in competing at CrossFit and doing CrossFit. For a high level competitor to be successful their programming is much different. The volume is much greater, the loads are extremly heavier and the work load is separated in a way that it must be broken up over the course of a full day. Competitor programming assumes the particpant is already fit and capable of all work loads and task. A common mistake most beginners (1 year or less) make is confusing the two or jumping the gun and wanting to do too much. My suggestion, get a year or more of CF under your belt, do a few competitions and then talk to your coach and get their opinion on where you stand.


Great video on Program design vs targeting


With CrossFit programming the idea is to not build specialist but to be generalist. To be a 7 at everything, not a 10 at one thing and a 4 at another. Just look at this years games. Most athletes seasonal programming were all heavy and called for tons of Olympic weightlifting. Dave Castro is the head program designer for CrossFit and comes up with all the Open, regional and Games workouts. He totally mind F’D everyone and most athletes got exposed pretty bad. Swimming, rowing, lifting, gymnastics, track and field, get the picture? Look familiar? Check out our programming if your unsure. (minus the swimming) Castro and CrossFit realized most athletes were targeting and specializing. Which is a no no and not what we are about. This years games were straight up CrossFit at its best.

With that being said folks look to improve in all areas and focus on the things in which you really suck at so you can suck that much less at them.

Creating effective workouts is also largely a function of experience and developing a knowledge of what are good combinations of movements, how many sets/reps a workout should contain as well as the prescribed weights”


Dave Castro talks program design at a level 1 seminar


Thats how the daily WODS are designed and created. Our ultimate goal is to create a broad level of fitness that will have you ready and prepared for any task at hand. Whether you are a lawyer, a weekend warrior, a tri athlete, an adventure racer, a first responder, a pro sport athlete or just want to be in the best shape of your life, CrossFit has proven to be one of the most effective means of creating a high level of fitness that will prepare you for all the demands of life. “Be prepared for the unknown”


Remember what you signed up for. CrossFit is a highly efficient strength and conditioning program that can be quantifiable as a sport. Thats what we do and who we are. At EVF we stay strong to that model and look to further advance our athletes with well produced variety, strong coaching and highly efficient programming. If you wake up and hate the workout that we have designed for you well guess what, this is not burger king and you don’t get to have it your way. Chances are that’s the workout you need to get in here for and in the end you will have gotten one step closer to your goals as a well rounded functionally fit, badd ass of a human being.


Or when all else fails and my brain goes numb, I’ll just settle for pure demonic fun.


Stay awesome folks! YEAAAA BUDDY!


Coach James



Check out the links if your really interested on knowing more about CrossFit programing and the differences between targeting and individualized programming.


Chris Spealer talks program design








Comments: 3

  1. Thanks James! This is a great, detailed answer to a really important question. The method behind the madness!

  2. Thanks James!! Appreciate you taking the time to answer a question that I’m sure was on everybody’s mind. It’s nice to know their is a method to the madness.

  3. Thank you both for taking the time to read it. As long as you stick to the basic principles and foundation of CrossFit you will stronger, you will run faster, you will get better. It won’t happen over night, and you will constantly be exposed. That’s how you should always look to train. Get exposed, get uncomfortable and you will see improvements when you apply that fitness to ther things.

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