This blog was written by OPEX Ambassador and CCP Coach, Ronel Velasquez As the owner of OPEX Caracas and through his remote coaching business YouRx, Ronel helps fitness athletes and everyday people find their ideal versions of fitness.
Follow Ronel on Instagram here. Visit the OPEX Caracas website here.
Functional Fitness is a young sport. To date, it has not been clearly defined by the majority of the enthusiasts, participants, and even coaches involved in it. At some point, the CrossFit methodology of Fitness became a worldwide movement that attracts new people every year. It's an unprecedented situation, as there is no prerequisite to entering the competitive field. The message of “anybody can be an athlete'' has created confusion in this sport.
The problem is that nobody gets it. What is it really? What's the goal? How do you train for it? How do you develop as an athlete or a coach in the sport? What does long-term progression for Individuals look like? In the words of James Fitzgerald, “If athletes and coaches can’t look at the sport, and immediately see how one trains for that sport, that sport will die”
A brief explanation of what the sport really is seems necessary. Fitness as a sport is a weekend event, in which people compete in individual and team categories, generally completing 6-9 events. Those events have different characteristics of fitness tasks.
For us, as OPEX Coaches, we currently define the sport as a “Maximal expression in Mechanics and Metabolics.” You have to express all kinds of fitness characteristics, and we could argue that fitness characteristics fall into two buckets: 15% maximal contractions and 85% metabolic variance.
This is a complex sport, and maybe that's what makes it so interesting for some coaches (like me). One thing that is a major constraint when you look at the sport and try to develop a model of progression is skills development. Literally, everything inside the sport is a skill. When we talk about skills, generally we go directly to gymnastics, however, for example, even pacing is a skill, and a very important one indeed.
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As if this were not enough, we have the athlete, the individual who, according to different factors, has strengths and weaknesses according to the characteristics and demands of the sport. Within the assessment process, we must observe and analyze the athlete's limitations, which become part of the skills to work on for this individual.
Taking this into account, we could argue that it would be virtually impossible to progress each of the skills independently. That's where individualization and prioritization come into play. Taking into consideration the training age, the individual's potential for adaptation, and perceived limiters, we arrive at an initial plan.
I will illustrate my process for creating individualized training programs for competitive fitness athletes in the case study below.
Juan and I have been working together for the last 2 years, and have slowly transformed his high explosive essence as an individual into the right characteristics needed for the sport. The data below is from when we started working together back in the days.
Something very important that we had to work on from the very beginning was to start taking into consideration his lifestyle and to build habits that will support his training volume to drive adaptation. In other words, to build sustainability not only in training but in life itself.
Juan Vargas (name changed to protect his privacy)
Male, 28 y/o
Goals/History Derived from the Consultation
6+ Years of functional fitness competitions, no serious training before that.
No sport background Has been competing at least 2/3 times a year since. The goal is to improve and be competitive at sanctionals/CF semifinals level.
Initial Assessment Data:
Learn the OPEX method of assessment here.
Due to the results found in the assessment and for the purposes of illustrating what skill progression looks like in long-term planning, we take into account 3 “skills” to progress them:
1) Hanging gymnastics: rMU, bMU, TTB, CTB pull ups (30 rMU KPI)
2) Barbell Cycling/Battery: Clean Battery KPI + Overall Aer/Endurance KPI´s
3) Pacing: due to the essence of the Individual, and lack of a structured training thinking about the demands and characteristics of the sport. We see in general lines an individual very unbalanced in Strength-capacity. That is why we built Pacing from the base (MAP 10). Despite having an acceptable score on the 60 min Row, we backtracked it to promote learning and consolidation of Pacing as a skill.
|Base Phase #1 (6 weeks)||
|Base Phase #2 (6 weeks)||
|Tough Phase #1 (2 weeks)||Cycle notes:
Here we keep progressing through the same scheme from Base #1. We reduced volume and pushed overall intensity slightly, and then completed 4 days of Testing
Base Phase #3 (6 weeks)
|Base Phase #4 (6 weeks)||
|Tough Phase #2 (3 weeks)||
|Testing Phase #2 (3 weeks)||
9 days of Testing followed by 1 full week of Deload.
|Base Phase #5 (4 weeks)||
Here we included touches at high % for CP work, but still maintaining low volume. Push Battery work and Gymnastics volume with more challenging pieces. We also started the Lactic build.
|Tough Phase #3 (4 weeks)||
Here we did the first Simulation of the year with some Open workouts, to test Functional volume relating to Priorities and to keep pushing the Lactic system.
Base Phase #6 (4 weeks)
This is the last Base phase of the season in December. Here, everything became harder and challenging. We still maintained the characteristic of Accumulate, but with more density and to start to get in shape for the competitive Season.
|Sports Specific Phase (8 weeks)||Tough Phase #4 (4 weeks)
*Deload (1 week)
*Tough #5 into Taper (3 weeks)
Here we made the full switch to Competitive style training - Practice/Refine/Sharpen
ASSESSMENT DATA (Oct 2020 before enter Sport-specific Phase)
This data from my client's KPIs, almost two years after the initial testing block. The periodization of this article is based on the progression I designed for my client, using principles to address his priorities.
The last 8 weeks were designed with the new format of the Crossfit Open in mind, including the Quarterfinals. At the time of writing this article, "Juan" (a fictitious name) is in the Top 50 of the South America Rankings 1 week after his participation in the Quarterfinals.
Beyond the design of individualized programs (an artistic and exciting process), specifically speaking for fitness athlete, there is the need to bring clarity and "order to the chaos.” There is too much confusion around this young sport and as both athletes and coaches, we must have a clear intention when entering it.
As a coach this is an exciting sport, and for those of us who are involved and enjoy it, we must build a culture around correct practices, long-term development and of course, individualized coaching that is focused and structured on the characteristics of the sport. There is no other way for those interested in seeking their maximum potential.
For us coaches, it is gratifying to have the possibility of standing on the shoulders of giants and taking the personal experience of much more experienced coaches who have contributed enormously to bring clarity. This is how I feel about my path here at OPEX. We certainly don't have the answers yet, but personally, it has certainly been quite a journey, where while I get answers, new questions never stop arising.
If you love functional fitness and want to start your own journey of getting involved in the sport, our course, Mixed Modal, is for you.
Learn more about the most comprehensive course on the sport to date here.