Training Tactics for the Advanced CrossFit Athlete-Part 1

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Once an athlete has reached advanced stages of development, improving the efficacy of their training can be a daunting task. The complexity is doubled when the goal is competitive CrossFit, where there are so many variables to manipulate and skills in which the athlete must excel.

Over the years I’ve spent training competitive CrossFit athletes, I’ve tried my best to create a silhouette of what the sport entails. We cannot be certain what will come up each year, but at this point, we have a good understanding of what Games athletes will be up against. It’s not exactly unknown or unknowable – just undetermined.

This series will try to address changes an advanced CrossFit athlete can implement to improve his or her training for the specific goal of greater success in competition. While these ideas may be useful to non-competitive or less advanced athletes in some instances, please keep in mind that they are designed for relatively high level athletes.

Today, I’m just introducing four concepts which have benefitted my athletes. I will go into each of them in-depth in further articles.

Train Your Warm-Up

For the average client at a CrossFit gym, a warm-up is just that: an opportunity to warm cold tissues, work on mobility, and maybe get a little skill practice in.

The advanced athlete must find opportunities to improve in every facet of their training, and the daily warm-up is no exception.

The first step is a simple formula, based on the warm-up presented in the CrossFit Journal Article “A Better Warm-Up.”  Each day’s warm-up (not including soft tissue, mobility, and specific movement preparation,) should include the following: an aerobic piece, a pulling movement, a pressing movement, a midline movement, and a squatting movement. This ensures full body bloodflow, priming of major movement patterns, and allows us the opportunity to perform the two crucial functions that my athletes use their warm-up for other than workout prep: volume accumulation (gradually adding more and more reps to the total weekly workload) and deliberate practice on specific movements.


Always. Be. Conditioning.

Look, CrossFit is an endurance sport. I’m sorry. I know you don’t want to be associated with marathoners. I know lifting heavy is “your favorite part.” But CrossFit. Is. An. Endurance. Sport.

Outside of a relatively small part of the year, my competitive CrossFit athletes include some kind of conditioning component with three out of four of their pure strength development pieces. Things like high rep sets of pullups between sets of 3-5 heavy back squats, muscle-ups mashed up with front squats, Russian kettlebell swings with push presses. This serves two main purposes: further practice and more volume on crucial skills, and sport specific strength work – after all, you’re more likely to move heavy weights when you’re tired than when you’re not tired in CrossFit Games competition.

Lift Like You’re Gonna Lift

Like any trait which needs to be developed for optimal performance in competitive CrossFit, maximal force production has a rate of diminishing returns. It seems to me that far too often, CrossFit athletes will keep hammering away at the 1RM door, to the point of neglecting other crucial aspects of their strength development.

According to his profile on The CrossFit Games website, Rich Froning’s max back squat is 445#. Certainly a respectable lift, but for a 200# male athlete, it’s nothing out of this world.

As fun as pushing your max deadlift is – is that really what competitive CrossFit athletes need the most of? There hasn’t been a max deadlift tested in CrossFit competition since 2009. On the other hand, we see deadlifts with light-to-moderate loads for moderate-to-high reps in nearly every Games related event. Yet I often see athletes neglecting to train things like heavy sets of 10-15 touch-and-go reps, and thus never maximizing their ability to recover from those efforts.

The same goes for weightlifting. The athlete with the heaviest snatch isn’t necessarily going to thrive at light-to-moderate weights for high reps. Nor, necessarily, will the athlete with supreme mechanics for max singles, but who is unskilled at performing in the 10-30 rep range.

These qualities must be trained as seriously as their counterparts, and this becomes especially important for advanced CrossFit athletes, for whom this is not merely variance, but sport specific training.

Do more

More of everything. More pullups. More muscle-ups. More running. More thrusters. More burpees.

Competitive CrossFit is a volume sport. The best athletes are still smiling on day three because their training has prepared them for it. Less is not more in this game.

Of course, “doing more, stupidly” isn’t the same as “doing more, intelligently.” It is entirely possible to construct a system which, over the course of weeks, months, and years, gradually increases the total volume an athlete handles in his or her training, and thus his or her tolerance to that volume.

In Part II, we will take an in-depth look at using your warm-up as a tool for advancing your skills and work capacity.

Jacob Tsypkin has been coaching athletes for ten years. Coming from a lifelong background in martial arts, Jacob took on an instructor position at the age of fifteen, and quickly realized he was a better coach than he was an athlete. He found CrossFit in 2005 and, through CrossFit, weightlifting. Jacob opened CrossFit Monterey in 2008 – the first affiliate on the Central Coast – and the accompanying Monterey Bay Barbell Club in 2011.
Jacob is fortunate to have been mentored by some of the best coaches in the game. His philosophy is a blend of conventional strength training models and a pragmatic, “if it works, it works” approach, and over the years he has coached weightlifters and powerlifters to the national level and coached CrossFitters to top 10 finishes in multiple regions, including the very tough NorCal region, as well as consulting for national champions in weightlifting and powerlifting, and CrossFit Games athletes.
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