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Absolutely Brilliant Post from CT that I Came Across


Thank you CT

In my online log I got asked the following question:
"Hi CT
, In another week, the Crossfit Open will be finished and in New Zealand we will be moving into our off season, as I will most likely not qualify for regionals.

I was wondering what does your off season look like for your Crossfit athletes? I want to gain strength and size (5-7kg if possible) and become more efficient with my Olympic lifts, I have between 12-16 weeks. I would like to structure my off season like you mention in the article “The future of Crossfit training”. Any ideas or advice of how to structure something would be great.
Keep up the great work, I love reading your articles and posts.
Thanks in advance "
This would require a whole article!!!
The off season has two large phases: General Physical Preparation and Specific Physical Preparation. Then the in season has two phases too: the pre-competitive preparation and the competitive preparation.

So basically…
General Physical Preparation (ideally 6-8 weeks)
Specific Physical Preparation (ideally 6 weeks)
Pre-Competitive preparation (ideally 6 weeks)
Competitive preparation (2-4 weeks)
I will address the off-season since that is your question.
The purpose of the off-season is to…

  1. Maximize the development of the required physical capacities (strength, power, anaerobic power, anaerobic capacity, aerobic power, aerobic capacity)
  2. Reach a high level of mastery in the required skills (body weight and weighlifting)
    During the general preparation phase there is much less typical Crossfit WODs as we do not want to practice skills in a fatigued state at that point. Don’t blend tools.
  • Build strength with the big basic lifts
  • Develop conditioning with lower skill metcon session targeting various physical capacities
  • Work on perfecting skills to the highest level, which means practicing with a low level of fatigue
    I’ll address the metcon aspect first.

To me, and this isn’t the “recognized physiological lingo” in Crossfit you need:

  1. A foundation of aerobic conditioning. This will never make you a great crossfitter. Having a top level low intensity cardio will not make you great. Just like having a big squat will not make you a great crossfitter either. But NOT having a solid foundation of aerobic capacity will SEVERELY limit your capacity to build the other energy systems. Sam Briggs is a good example of having a amazing motor that allows her to maximize her other energy systems and do great without having the best skills.
  2. A high lactate threshold. This is probably the most important quality to have as a crossfit athlete. I’ve seen athletes with amazing skills, who are very strong and on some WODs or team WODs they kill it. But when they do WODs where lactic acid becomes an issue they have a DRASTIC drop in performance. Once your body gets acidic everything goes bad. Form, toughness, speed, etc. So having the physiology to delay lactic acid production is a key for crossfit performance. Having a high lactate threshold means that you can go at a higher intensity without breaking down. It means that you don’t have to pace yourself as much. Once you get acidic you are dead in the water.
  3. The capacity to do work in a state of oxygen deficit. An oxygen deficit is when the body cannot pull in enough oxygen to supply the body and produce energy. This has three effects. (1) it KILLS you psychologically… this is almost the same feeling as drowning. (2) you rely more on the anaerobic processes which means a greater accumulation of lactic acid (see above) and a shorter supply of energy (3) it decreases your skill efficiency. When you are in a state of oxygen deficit the brain receives less oxygen and thus doesn’t work as efficiently. The part of the brain responsible for coordination and motor control is affected too. When this happen it becomes virtually impossible to maintain proper form on your skills.\

In the first case I like to use the airdyne or rowing ergometer done with loaded carries to build endurance. The goal is to do 30-50 minutes of continuous work of a moderate intensity, basically non stop. We are shooting for a heart rate of 140-150 BPM. An example could be:
500m row (about 2:50 - 3:00 pace)
Farmer’s walk max 2 minutes (could also be overhead walk)
Rest 1 minute
6-8 intervals
To build the lactate threshold we want interval work where we go as hard as humanly possible but stopping before lactic acid build up. Then taking a short rest. The goal is to lengthen the “intense” part gradually.

For example:
Airdyne bike 15 seconds all out like your life depends on it / 45 seconds of complete rest… do 6-8 intervals.
Every week add 5 seconds to your intense intervals until you hit a ratio of 45 seconds on / 45 seconds off.
The airdyne bike is the best option for this, by far. The rowing ergometer or skiing ergometer are the second best option and prowler pushing is the 3rd.
For oxygen deficit work the goal is to do a complex of exercises where you first create a huge energy demand then do 1 or 2 exercises in which you can’t have a normal breathing pattern.
Once again the best option for the first exercise is the airdyne (message to remember: if you don’t have a airdyne bike, get one) and the rowing ergometer is the second.
A few good complexes would look like this:
LEVEL ONE (first 3 weeks)
Airdyne bike go hard for 45-60 seconds
Rest 20 seconds
Front squat 10 reps at 50%
Rest 90 seconds
Do 4-5 sets
Airdyne bike go hard for 45-60 seconds
Rest 20 seconds
Thruster 10 reps at 50%
Rest 90 seconds
Do 4-5 sets
Airdyne bike go hard for 45-60 seconds
Rest 20 seconds
Prowler pushing 30 seconds
Rest 90 seconds
Do 4-5 sets
Airdyne bike go hard for 45-60 seconds
Rest 20 seconds
Burpees max in 30 seconds
Rest 90 seconds
Do 4-5 sets
Airdyne bike go hard for 45-60 seconds
Rest 20 seconds
20 wall-ball
Rest 90 seconds
Do 4-5 sets
Note that these are different options you do not do all of them in one workout! You can use the rowing ergometer instead of the airdyne, do 250m as fast as possible.
NOTE: many of my athletes use a oxygen deprivation mask to do this.

LEVEL TWO (weeks 4-6)
Airdyne bike go hard for 45-60 seconds
Rest 20 seconds
Thruster 10 reps at 50%
Rest 20 second
10 pull-ups (kipping okay)
Rest 90 seconds
Do 4-5 sets
Airdyne bike go hard for 45-60 seconds
Rest 20 seconds
Front squat 10 reps at 50%
Rest 20 seconds
KB swing 20 reps 24kg
Rest 90 seconds
Do 4-5 sets
You get the idea…

I would like 1 session a week for aerobic foundation training, 2 for lactate threshold work, 1 for oxygen deficit work and 1 or 2 typical competitive WODs (I suggest picking WODs for the open from the past 3 years, but go with the ones where you had your worse performance).

Here the goal is to build a solid foundation of strength on the big basic movements,. Ideally you want to start with movements where your weaknesses are emphasized. For example I’m super quads dominant, my hams and glutes are weak. So my main lower body movements would be:
DEADLIFT PATTERN: Sumo deadlift, Romanian deadlift
SQUAT PATTERN: Box squat (low bar, wide stance powerlifting style), Goodmorning
For the upper body you want to build strict strength so we would use something like:
VERTICAL PATTERN: Behind the neck press, military press , bar dips, strict pull-ups (various grips)
HORIZONTAL PATTERN: Bench press (various grips), Pendlay row, Chinese chest supported row
And some “bodybuilding” work for lagging muscle groups would be added at the end of each workout (normally a lower/upper body split is used). During this part of the off-season sets of 4-6 reps for the big movements and 6-8 for the accessory work are the best option. But other schemes aimed at building strength and size can be used. This article might be useful: https://www.t-nation.com/...ven-rep-schemes

Skill work should be done at the beginning of each session. Ideally we want 2-3 weightlifting skill sessions and 2-3 bodyweight skill sessions per week. These are about 40 minutes long and the goal is to drill technical excellence. You can challenge yourself but only as long as perfect technique is maintained.
Skill acquisition can be tricking since we all have our own different weaknesses and problem area, so the exercise selection will depend on what your problem is and discussing which strategy to use is beyond the scope of a Q&A forum.
Obviously invest more time on the skills you master the least.
Now for the SPECIFIC PREPARATION portion of the off-season.
Here we begin to blend some strength and skill work together. But we still do the metcon by itself.

Now we will spend more time on oxygen deficit work, we want to build the mental toughness required to do well in competitive WODs. We keep the same format (level 2) but do 2 weekly sessions and a few more rounds (up to 10).
For the lactate threshold work we want to increase the duration of the intense period. We will do so by adding a body weight movement in the interval.
For example…
Airdyne all-out 30 seconds / 10 box jumps / rest 60 seconds
or …
Airdyne all-out 30 seconds / 10 pull-ups / rest 60 seconds
or …
Airdyne all-out 30 seconds / 2 rope climbs / rest 60 seconds
You get the idea… start at 30 seconds and increase 5 seconds per week until you hit 55-60 seconds of hard work.
The ratio of metcon days would become:
Lactate threshold work: 2 per week
Oxygen deficit work: 2 per week
Competition WOD: 1-2 per week
The strength work should be more specific to what you need in crossfit. So…
SQUAT PATTERN: Front squat , Zercher squat
DEADLIFT PATTERN: traditional deadlift, thick bar deadlift
VERTICAL PATTERN: Push press, thrusters, ring dips, loaded rope climbs, kipping/butterfly pull ups
HORIZONTAL PATTERN: Floor press, loaded push ups, Pendlay row
Again using a lower/upper split of 2-3 times a week each.
Once a week done as regular strength work (go for pure strength work, in the 85-100% range, see the 22 rep schemes article). The second time use a strength/bodyweight complex. For example…
For overhead…
A1. Strict handstand push-ups x max reps unbroken
15 sec rest
A2. Kipping handstand push-ups x max reps unbroken
15 sec rest
A3. Push press 70% x max reps
3-4 minutes rest do 4-5 sets
For squat pattern …
A1. Loaded pistol x 8-10 per leg (use adequate weight), alternate legs
no rest
A2. Pistol (bodyweight) x max reps, alternate legs
15 sec rest
A3. Front squat 70% x max reps
3-4 minutes of rest do 4-5 sets
For deadlift pattern…
A1. 1 arm KB swing 10 per arm (use adequate weight) only lift to eye level, alternate arm
15 sec rest
A2. Regular KB swing 20 reps (use adequate weight)
15 sec rest
A3. Deadlift touch & go 70% x max reps (unbroken)
3-4 minutes of rest, do 4-5 sets
For push/pull pattern…
A1. Loaded ring dips x 8-10 (use adequate weight)
no rest
A2. Loaded strict pull-ups x 8-10 (use adequate weight)
no rest
A3. Strict bodyweight ring dips x max reps unbroken
no rest
A4. Strict pull-ups x max reps unbroken
no rest
A5. Kipping ring dips x max reps unbroken
no rest
A6. Kipping pull-ups (or butterfly) x max reps unbroken
Rest 3-4 minutes, do 3 sets

Here focus more on the harder skills like muscle-ups, bar muscle-ups, handstand walks, etc.
*We want to begin working skills in a state of fatigue. BUT not integrate them in a complex yet. BUT do them AT THE END of your session. Once you’ve done your strength and metcon work, rest 15 minutes and do 30 minutes of skill work. Alternate body weight and weighlifting days.
On the lifts focus on the full lifts from the floor, less on technique drills.
Hope this helps.