Goals / Philosophy

With the new climate/talent that is coming into CrossFit the days of ‘everybody can participate’ will soon be limited.  Dave Castro has hinted to upcoming changes for the 2015 season.  Regardless how this will change the Regional structure (Which it will).  Preparation for the Open will be even more important for individual and Team athletes.  Thus, our priority is:

  1. CrossFit Open Performance

From there, we can go into the philosophy of program design: Health = Performance

We truly believe this is the only way…. FOR US.

We are not oblivious to the culture in sports or mainstream fitness.  We know athletes still perform and have shitty health. There are the extremes, like those who push relentlessly with little training knowledge and end up chronically overtrained. Injuries, illness and inconsistent performance plague these types of athletes. Then there are those that use substance enhancing protocols to obtain performance, risking their own health (if abused).

For us, we simply want to:

A.) Limit injures and improve muscle tissue (Athletes training more consistent, more quality training sessions)

B.) Respect biochemical adaptation when programming  (Focus is on Long term adaptation, stabilizing performance)



When we first eval an athlete we are trying to get an overview of the following:

  1. Genetics (Talent)

  2. Energy Systems

  3. Hormonal Regulation

  4. Structure (Joint by Joint)

Genetics play a huge factor in athletics, but also for program design.  As uniquely individual an athlete may be, so should their program design.   

For talent identification, it is important for coaches to evaluate athletes and have a standard protocol that can be useful and repeated. For example, we use a Critical Row Test for our CrossFit athletes. The results give us a clear energy system signature.     

Protocol for the 3min Critical Row Test

*Rower Set to 3 mins (Damper 6 Men, Damper 4 Women)
*Record Watts and Watt average every 20 seconds
*Athlete wears Heart Rate Monitor. Record Avg HR, and Max HR
*Athlete is instructed to Row as fast as possible.  Do not pace, every stroke is maximal.

With the information we then graph the power output.  The following are two distinctly different athletes.



  • Athlete 1 (Green) is very powerful but drops off drastically.  Her Anaerobic Work Capacity ends around the 2 min mark. From then on we can see her aerobic system’s ability to produce power. Athlete 1 can produce 2.7W/kg aerobically (or Critical Power Threshold). Athlete 2 (Black) can produce 3.7W/kg aerobically (CPT).
  • Athlete 2 is a “Regional” athlete.


This is just one example of our testing process which centers around performance. The other half of our evaluation utilizes the Omegawave Team System, which allows us to monitor all of the functional systems:

*Energy Metabolism  (Aerobic/ Anaerobic)  
*Autonomic Nervous System
*Cardiopulmonary Regulation
*Hormonal Regulation

We look for all functional systems to be optimal (per sport).  Adaptation does not happen in isolation. There are general biological laws a coach and athlete should respect.

For example, the hormonal system is largely ignored by most coaches in the sport of CrossFit. One of the biggest mistakes in this regard is layering a “Squat Cycle” over CrossFit type workouts.

Squat cycles were made in isolation or for pure strength training.  What makes a “Squat Cycle” good is improvement in hypertrophy of Myofibrils and enhancing the CNS.  This is a fine balance between protein synthesis, enhancing anabolic hormones, energy supply, amino acid, free creatine and  hydrogen ion content to stress hormones, particularly glucocorticoids. These stress hormones  can have an anabolic effect or catabolic effect (the latter leading to hormonal dysregulation, ie: adrenal fatigue,etc.).

balance PDS.jpg


So adding more load on top of a Squat Cycle may throw the hormonal system out of balance.  

Interestingly enough, strength gains can still be made (though not great), which is why many CrossFit athletes don’t recognize this system is out of balance immediately. They still see improvements via CNS, but will see signs such as increased percentage of body fat (or can’t lose weight), disturbed sleeping patterns, low immune system,  irritability, lack of sex drive, and inconsistency in CrossFit performance.

The hormonal system plays a huge part in aerobic adaptations as well.  

An example could be when we see CrossFit athletes swear up and down they are getting enough Aerobic work (Low-end Endurance as well as Max Aerobic Power Intervals) yet their heart adaptations say otherwise.  Aerobic work is suppose to improve cardiac output (enlarge the heart and blood volume). If the hormonal system is not in check, all you will get is an anaerobic adaptation (thickening of the heart wall, concentric hypertrophy.)  In essence, you are wasting your time.  

This is why we believe in Optimal Balance of all Functional Systems.

With that said adaption does not happen in a predictable fashion. Some coaches follow this line of thought…

Time it Takes to Recover:

  • 48-72 Hours for the CNS
  • 8-12 Hours for Aerobic
  • 40-60 Hours for Anaerobic

Sorry, but this is a very elementary way of looking at adaptation, and one that does not exist for each individual. I too have followed this way of thinking, obtaining 30% Good Results to 70% Shit. 

CrossFit (the sport) has given us the ultimate physiology problem, of which I believe is being dominated by talent, not program design. I don’t think coaches have yet risen to the challenge to really develop athletes for the sport in respect to biochemistry and programming.  We must realize adding more, or making it harder isn’t the answer.  It’s the focus on quality and complementary components that will see the average be great, and great to exceptional.

(*Next week I will go over training priorities and periodization)


BY: Aaron Davis of Train Adapt Evolve