Behind the Curtain: How CrossFit Programming Works

What message can drive an athlete to obsessively click the refresh button on his computer screen at the same time of day, every day? What makes this athlete mentally pace as she waits for her future to be published? CrossFit gyms around the world design and publicly broadcast workouts each day (also known as WODs) to push the personal limits of athletes. This is the person behind the curtain—this is what we refer to as CrossFit Programming.

For those unfamiliar, the programming of a CrossFit gym is what determines the movements your workout routine will include. Some days it may incorporate movements that feel better than eating ice cream. Some days may involve movements that will make a root canal sound pleasurable, and some days may have both. The important thing to remember is that outside of being exciting and fun, the programming has to be varied, intense and functional. There is a lot of science behind good programming, but in the end, it is still an art form.

crossfit-pyramid-1

The CrossFit Pyramid

It would be hard to generate a fitness program that tries to improve strength in gymnastics, coordination in weightlifting, flexibility in both and do it all while developing an iron constitution. It’s even harder when the mindset and goals of athletes are as varied as the workouts and this all has to fit in a one hour. When these elements are simultaneously in play, something special happens. The limits of your mind and body are not just reached, but superseded. The impossible becomes not just attainable, but repeatable.

A good programmer takes advantage of what the body is naturally capable of doing: pushing, pulling, jumping, running, squatting and throwing. He or she is proficient in dancing the fine line between just enough and too much, without tipping in either direction. In the end, a skilled programmer has you doing this day after day, staving off injury and consistently improving—even after years of involvement. They care enormously about what they do and about their athlete’s performance and well-being, all the while keeping CrossFitters pacing and waiting day after day.

Gino Escalante is a Head Coach and Director of Programming at Reebok CrossFit Back Bay.