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When I first opened CrossFit GVA in 2011, programming workouts was something of an afterthought.
By 2011, CrossFit had been around already for a few years in the USA and the CrossFit Games had already developed into the major event it is today.
However, CrossFit was still virtually unknown in Switzerland. We had lots of people coming to try CrossFit who had a fitness/gym background and were in good shape, but had very little experience of weightlifting, gymnastics and other CrossFit staple movements.
Back in 2012, it wasn’t uncommon for us to program on the fly based on the number of people in the class and their ability. There was no bigger picture approach to how we programmed. We just wanted to try get people moving better and improving.
After a while we realised that a scatter gun approach to programming was doing a disservice to our members. A random approach produces random results and we needed a systematic plan to help people reach their fitness goals. My feeling was that our members lacked the basic strength to attack many workouts, so we designed a strength based approach to our programming.
We would start off each session with a basic movement like the squat, deadlift or press and follow up with a metcon of some description. This approach worked well, although it was a bit limited in scope. In order to combat this, we added in more skill work along the lines of gymnastics.
We got to the point where I released this video talking about how our program had evolved.
In 2014, Tristan joined CrossFit GVA. Tristan studied in Lyon and gained a masters degree in strength and conditioning. His focus has always been on the science of programming. How can we understand athlete performance? How can we identify weaknesses and improve upon them? Why does this athlete have a sub 4 minute Fran time, but struggles with a longer workout like Cindy (20 minutes AMRAP of 5 pull-ups, 10 push ups, 15 air squats).
The answers to these questions come in the form of human physiology and sports science. As CrossFit as a sport has evolved, the best athletes have realised this and are taking a very precise approach to their training.
Tristan pushed us to move towards a similar approach to our group training. He was heavily influenced not only by his studies but his experience with OPEX. OPEX is a company founded by the winner of the first ever CrossFit Games, James Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is widely recognised as one of the foremost thinkers and educators in the field of CrossFit performance.
We were also getting feedback from frustrated members who felt like their progress had stalled and needed a change.
We wanted to implement the lessons we were learning from the top coaches in the CrossFit world but in a way that was relevant to our athletes and their needs and abilities.
Earlier this year, we hired Tristan full time and put him in charge of the programming.
In part 2 tomorrow we will go into some of the changes that have arrived since Tristan took over.