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The Madness Behind The Method


The Madness Behind The Method

By: Michael Ruggeri

I’ve been told our programming is very different from other gyms and that it has often left many wondering why we do the things we do (and why it is we don’t do certain things.)

We don’t try to be different for difference sake.  And I don’t even know if we are.  We are a purpose driven and goal oriented philosophy and that is our intent behind our programming.  If that is different, so be it. Our goal is to be effective, not unique. 

Our class programming is designed around our core intent which is to promote:
-Health and Longevity 
-Movement efficiency and performance
-Structural Balance 

Beginning with health and longevity, it is important to note that living a long healthy life and seeking to achieve your maximum physical potential is clearly delineated. One cannot chase a huge barbell lift, advanced gymnastic skills or high volume metabolic contractions without rolling the dice on their health and wellness. Chasing such specificity to improve in a particular skill or area of fitness should be done through an individualized program tailored to that individual based around a movement assessment, their goals and current lifestyle. That said, forcing an entire group of individuals with varying abilities through a program designed to improve a back squat 1rm, “Fran” time, or ring muscle-up ability is going to leave many battered and broken along the way. Through designing a program around health and longevity and not specifically for the purpose of achieving PRs, competition, populism etc., we can create a platform for long term growth through fitness for each individual.

Writing a program that promotes the ability for one to move through exercise with quality positioning and give beginners the opportunity to learn positioning is another key consideration taken when writing a workout for our gym. With a constantly changing member base, a group program needs to account not just for those who know what they are doing, but also for those who do not. Completing movements often perceived as being low skill by many carries tremendous value for the beginner and the veteran member alike. Using the goblet squat as an example, it gives the new member time to learn movement solutions within the squat pattern with an easily controlled load and creates the opportunity for the veteran to refine their squat positioning for better carry over into more complex squat patterns over time.

Movement combinations and overall design of class flow is never random, and is always designed with the intent of promoting optimal movement or to create opportunities for learning and growth of a particular movement/skill. 

Last, but not least, creating structural balance is the main consideration taken when selecting the movements we will be completing within our classes. It’s not uncommon to see members achieve new highs in their lifts almost without trying and often wonder “I don’t understand how I PRd this. We haven’t even been working on it.”

The answer to this question lies in having created better structural balance.

A great example I can give would be an individual who PRs their thruster. This individual may wonder how it is they were able to thruster more weight than ever before without having front squatted or pressed in high volume. The answer may lie within the bear crawls they had been performing in class. The missing piece for this individual wasn’t a lack of squat or pressing strength, it was the inability of their body to coordinate movement from the core to periphery efficiently (which tediously performing a bear crawl had improved and developed). 

While crawls, carry variations, single arm/leg activities, isometric holds, and other activities we complete are often perceived as being “Unsexy”, they have the ability to promote great balance through the midline and strength of the right to left side. This in turn is what leads people to get stronger in our program without absolute strength or speed strength being a focus. If we have structurally sound individuals in our classes with minimal muscle imbalances, we can promote greater movement efficiency and the ability to live a long, happy, injury free life full of continued growth within fitness.

With the intent of the program made a little clearer, I hope it answers some questions on why we do the things we do within our gym. While “Crossfit” is in our name, we do not design our class program around the sport of fitness. Following programs that are written specifically with the intent of improving a 1RM, gymnastic skill or metabolic component falls in the category of sport specificity (in many cases “Crossfit”).  While this type of design is not wrong, it’s going to leave a path of broken, underdeveloped, and compensating bodies along the way. Only those who are resilient and biologically better suited will make it out unscathed. Our program is designed to give you the platform to take your fitness in any direction you wish. You will become stronger and more capable without the risk of burning out or getting injured.

By being a structurally sound efficient mover, if you wish to pursue your max physical expression in a specific lift, sport, or other activity you will have a fantastic base to do so and will likely see greater success as a result.

Michael Ruggeri is CrossFit Buffalo’s lead programmer and has been a coach and competitive CrossFit Athlete for over 10 years.  He is an OPEX Associate Coach, NASM, CPT, and CES.  Having competed at both local and regional levels he now focuses on programming for and training both groups and individuals to achieve optimal health and performance