Posted on November 15, 2015 at 1:00am by Anthony Agtarap

The purpose of this post is provide some education regarding the principles and rationale behind the programming at Engineered Bodies Strength & Conditioning (EBS&C).  I’ll be discussing the programming specifically with the community that makes up the general population, CrossFit group classes, Mobility-Strength, and Handstand 101 class.

The process begins with meeting with each of our clients individually at the start of every quarter to determine their personal performance goal(s) that they want to achieve.  If we can’t arrange a time to meet in person, then this communication is done via email or text but it’s important to establish each and every person’s goal and record this data in our system.  We also take the time to see how everything is going in terms of aches and pains, FMS re-screening (if necessary), updating corrective strategies (if necessary), and to discuss customer service related issues (if any).  All of this data is recorded and input into their personal client file.  Meeting with each person at the start of the quarter also provides us with an opportunity to re-connect with those people in our community that we may not see often because they train at a different class time than we coach perhaps.  We have a large number of people to connect with and it’s a ton of work to get through the list but I believe it’s a very import step as it provides the foundation to the next step in the process.

You would think everyone has different goals because every one is a unique individual and to some extent that is true however, every quarter, there are some common similarities and trends that I see that help me determine how I’ll program for the majority of the population.

Below is a graph taken from a sample size of 50 clients and shows the breakdown of the total number of Q4 performance goals (e.g. October – December).  50 clients had a total of 136 total goals and it shows that 36% of all goals are bent arm strength (B.A.S.) related.  It’s important to note each client has multiple goals meaning they may want to get a chin-up but they may also want to improve their 1RM back squat and get a handstand within that quarter.  These 50 clients go to different class times throughout the day, vary in age, and differ in total time in the community (i.e. how long they’ve been a member at EBS&C).

Pie Chart of Client's Goals

This next graph displays the number of clients out of that same sample size of 50 clients that have both B.A.S. and squat or deadlift related goals versus the other goals.

Client goals - bent arm strength & deadlift

As you can see from this graph, the majority of the goals that the people want to achieve are bent arm strength related, squatting or deadlifting strength related so the programming focus for the quarter is determined by the majority.   I also analyzed the performance goals of our clients throughout each quarter that we collected historically since we opened almost three years ago and the numbers are similar to what is displayed in this graph.

This trend is actually consistent for the majority of the population at EBS&C throughout the year regardless of the season.  There may be a slight increase in the overall number of people that want to improve their running times in Q2 (April – June) in preparation for a specific endurance race in the Spring but even if that is the case, those same people want to either get their first chin-up or pull-up or increase that number within that same quarter.  There may also be a small group of people that want to improve the efficiency and/or the conditioning for some specific CrossFit movement patterns as the season gets closer to the CrossFit Open Season (Q1, January – March) but again, those same people want to also improve their bent arm strength or squat strength in that quarter.

With that in mind, I program with slightly different focuses throughout the year because of these slight increases of any one particular, seasonally-infuenced, performance goals.  This is why you would see more running technique or running outside in Q2 and/or Q3 (July – September) versus any other time in the year.  This is also why you would see more CrossFit girl workouts or higher-volume blasts in Q1.  Quarter 4 is typically a time to get inside and really work on the strength weaknesses that everybody in the community has and more importantly, because the majority of the community are putting these weaknesses as things they want to improve on in Q4.  Why is that?  Well mainly because the weather is typically not as pleasant in Q4 in the Lower Mainland and we’re mostly getting into “winter mode” where the majority of people aren’t eating as clean as they would be in the other quarters.  My task as a strength coach is to design programs in such a way to address the weakness that the majority of the people have throughout the year (mainly B.A.S. squat, deadlift) and strategically build those up at the same time as balancing seasonally-influenced training focusses.

Chart of training focus

Will the programming please everybody at any particular time in the year?  Most certainly not, and this is something I’ve experienced many times historically in Q4, even though those clients have Q4 goals that are still mainly strength-related.  I suspect it has something to do with the fact Q4 programming is more structured with specified sets, reps, prescribed rest times, prescribed loading percentages, specific progressions, and less hero WOD’s or workouts that leave you flat on your back.  Q4 is not as fun perhaps for some people.  I get it.  People want to feel blasted at the end of the workout, however that’s not the focus of Q4.  There is a time in the year for those high-intensity blasts and there’s a time in the year to really focus on your weaknesses and building up your absolute strength.  This holds true even if your whole reason for training is to improve your overall general health and fitness and feel good.  Working hard through the programming of Q4 can be a grind mentally (motivationally) and physically but things get pretty happy and fun when you’ve built up the necessary strength you didn’t have and all of a sudden achieve your first chin-up or muscle-up goal.

What’s with the straight arm strength (S.A.S.) progressions this quarter you ask?  Nobody has a tuck planche so what’s the point of putting it in there?  That’s true, the majority of the community do not have a tuck planche but most everyone can get themselves into the top of a push-up plank and build on that.  The reason why I put those S.A.S. progressions in this quarter is to build up people’s straight-arm strength so that they can eventually achieve a solid lock-out at the top of the dip (box or rings) or basic push-up which directly strengthen one’s B.A.S.

Clients are encouraged to work with us privately throughout the quarter if they want to improve a specific attribute of their fitness in a quarter where that particular attribute is not the training focus for the program.  For example if an individual’s goal is something specific like achieving a press-to-handstand or improving their unbroken wall ball shots to 30 reps then meet with us privately so we can come up with a training program and strategy specific to your goals.  Clients are also encouraged to book private sessions if they have specific things they want to work on or figure out.  For example, you may have a nagging injury and you want to figure out why and how to correct it, or you want to learn or work on specific techniques, or you want to determine why you may not be feeling a certain exercise where you think you should be feeling it.  These are examples of things that need to be addressed in private as accurate assessments take time. Note these examples are not the same as figuring out an exercise modification for you to do to avoid a pre-existing injury or determining the right progression for you to work on.

Pyramid graphic of goals

In summary, the programming at EBS&C isn’t random or without thought and I can assure you it does not have my own personal goals programmed into it.  The training focus in any given quarter come from client-driven goals from the majority of the EBS&C population and makes up the foundation of the programming.  The programming works if you come consistently and is the main reason why the goal gong gets hit each quarter by many many clients.

As always, I am here to answer any questions or concerns regarding the programming so feel free to come and talk to me in person or send me an email.

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