Our Programming Structure
by Erik Castiglione
In last week’s article we talked about why we write our own programming as opposed to outsourcing. This week, we’re going to break down our programming structure for you.
We program on a 6-day rotation, and we’re open 7 days per week. This means that every Monday is NOT the same, so that people who can never make Mondays aren’t locked out of any particular movement. Our rotation is as follows:
Day 1: Snatch
Day 2: Squat/Deadlift
Day 3: Open
Day 4: Press
Day 5: Clean
Day 6: Open
For most of our members, the snatch is a relatively light lift, especially when compared to our back squats. So, even if we’re doing full snatches where we receive the bar in an overhead squat, our upper bodies and core are taxed to a higher degree than our legs. This holds true for the pull off the floor as well – it’s a light weight compared to our deadlifts. When we’re performing the power snatch, that has even less lower body involvement. So, for our intents and purposes, we classify snatch days as upper body days. (Thank you to Jacob Tsypkin for this, I stole it from his book Fitness as a Sport).
Since the clean is significantly heavier for most of our members than the snatch, we consider this a lower body centric day. Thus, in each 6-day cycle, we have 2 upper body days, 2 lower body days, and 2 days that remain open.
We reserve several options for our open days. Sometimes, we opt for longer metcons that wouldn’t be possible in a class with strength work. This could be long, slow cardio; longer interval work; or just a long chipper of a workout. Sometimes we use these days for dedicated skill work, whether we specify what it is, or leave it up to our athletes. Recently, we’ve used some of these days for auxiliary strength work, by incorporating hip thrusts and Turkish get-ups. Lastly, we reserve some of these days for benchmark/hero workouts. These workouts are fitness tests, and we want our members to be as fresh as possible when performing them. This cycle allows us the following calendar rotation (I’ve only shown 3 weeks, but you should be able to get the general idea):
In our strength cycles, we have speed days, volume days, and heavy days for our presses/squats/deadlifts, and for our Olympic lifts, days can be considered technique work, volume work, or heavy work. We work on 1 press and 1 squat variation for speed, 1 of each for volume, and 1 of each for near max effort. We then test the heavy lift, shift our speed lift to volume, volume to heavy, and introduce new variations for speed. This can be difficult to conceptualize, so again, a visual aid may help. Check out the table below, which shows our current press/squat cycle.
How do snatch and clean days factor in? That’s much more of a linear progression. We start with technique work, then we build volume of training, then we get heavy, taper, and test. The specific movement variations we choose for those depend on what our gym needs collectively to improve. If our pulls are off, we spend more time working from the hang, then the floor, and emphasizing the pull. If it’s our turnover/finish, we spend more time in our squat positions, and work from the high hang or tall starting positions.
Referring to our press/squat table, you can see that percentages increase over time, and that until we test, we don’t see a week with multiple days at 90+%. This is how we regulate intensity to make sure you can recover. BUT, sometimes, we want to deliberately overload ourselves with a few days a week at 90+%. That’s where we are this week, and we accomplish it by including some heavy snatches and cleans as well as squats. Next week will be a little lighter on the lower body, but we’ll still have 3 days over 90%. Then, you get to recover a bit, and then we’ll test. We always want you to be primed and as fresh as possible when we test our lifts.
How does conditioning fit into this structure? Well, if you’ll recall from Part 2 of “What We Train,” there are 3 energy pathways that we seek to optimize. Training the phosphagen and glycolytic pathways are the most taxing on the nervous system. These systems are primed by speed work, and heavy work – especially lower body days. So, you can expect to see some short, intense workouts on lower body speed/heavy days (this includes clean work).
Upper body days are less taxing on the nerves, so we emphasize muscular stamina and cardio endurance on these days. We include this in some of our “open” days as well. Awkward object conditioning, or what is called “Strongman Endurance” days promote general strength and aerobic health. So, we include these on upper body and/or open days as well. It might be boring, but it’s good for you, so we’ll continue to include these days.
The movements we perform in metcons are chosen to reinforce the strength work we do that day. For example, you can expect to see additional pressing and a lot of pulling when we have a press day. Similarly, the clean and snatch rely heavily on explosive hip power, so you’ll likely see movements that incorporate that on snatch/clean days. And so on.
Lastly, volume days are excellent for building muscular endurance and proper positions in your lifts. We reinforce this and correct muscle imbalances by adding in accessory work on volume days. These days won’t leave you crumpled in a heap, drenched in sweat, gasping for air, but they are immensely important, and are challenging in their own way, so don’t skimp on them!
There are many other training effects that we consider when creating workouts and fitting them into our structured program, but this should hopefully give you a general sense. Now, you can see what we’re doing currently, and use that to predict where we’re going. At least, you’ll be in the right ballpark.