Case Study: Mixed Modal Programs & the CrossFit Open

Case Study: Mixed Modal Programs & the CrossFit Open

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.

Case Study: Mixed Modal Program Design & The CrossFit Open

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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
5´9, 185lbs

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:

  • Squat Snatch 1RM = 285#
  • 25 Squat Snatch @77% = 5:50
  • Unbroken Pull-Ups (Kipping) = 43 reps
  • Unbroken Chest to Bar = 102 reps
  • Close Grip Bench Press = 315#
  • Power Clean 1RM = 315#
  • 8 minute AMRAP = 11 Reps
  • OPEX 12.3 = 388 reps
  • 90 minute AMRAP = 9342
  • 10 min ABike for max cals = 172 cals @65RPM
  • 60 min Row = 15557
  • 500 mts row, rest 2 min and repeat = 1:38,1:40
  • 30/30x4 = 190,168,173,165

Learn the OPEX method of assessment here.

Assessment Insights:

  • Too strong for his capacity
  • Keep strength volume low enough to maintain CNS drive and efficiency in SN/CJ maxes. (Test Jerk x2 every 2-3 weeks)
  • Build Aerobic (Cyclical) as a base of support for sustainability, getting faster over time
  • Build Weightlifting Cycling Battery as a skill due to Clean Battery score
  • Build Upper Gymnastics density into Aerobic work overtime
  • Use Row 30/30x2 through the year to monitor essence/Power Endurance ratio changes
  • Build aerobic base as support
  • Build sustainability in training and life
  • Build barbell cycling as a skill
  • Improve upper gymnastics from the base


  • Build Basic Lifestyle Guidelines (BLGs) practice *start with Sleep and Water consumption
  • Tracking and Log Food
  • 9 Training sessions/week
  • 90/120 min each session
  • MAP cyclical progression (Base)

Cycle Notes:
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)
  • Strength Base support/Upper CP(Structure)
  • WL till 75-77% skill-based *Consistency/Efficiency based
  • Strict Gymnastics *Building
  • Longest MAP
  • Alac Power

Cycle notes:
  • Upper CP Building (structure/Base support)
  • Hanging Gymnastics Functional Volume
  • Build Barbell Cycling as a Skill
  • Aerobic Base/Pacing *cyclical
Base Phase #2 (6 weeks)
  • More volume in general
  • Strength Base support
  • Upper CP (Volume)
  • WL till 80% Speed-based
  • Functional Volume (Skills)
  • Longer MAP
  • Alac Endurance
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
  • Snatch/Split Jerk Max testing
  • Gymnastics KPIs
  • Row 30/30x3
  • 10 min ABike

Base Phase #3 (6 weeks)

  • CNS Touches
  • Intensity in ABs strength
  • Density in WL/StSpeed work
  • MXMO ME sets
  • MAP 8 Cyclical
  • Alactic Power
Cycle notes:
  • Start BB cycling progression at low % as a base of support for the aerobic system
  • Test Snatch/Jerk Maxes every 3 weeks
  • rMU w/Aer /Functional Volume
  • Progressing Upper Gymnastics into Muscle Endurance sets
Base Phase #4 (6 weeks)
  • Max AbST (x2/week)
  • WL/StrSpeed:BB cycling
  • Battery work
  • MAP 7
  • Complementary Circuits
  • Alactic Endurance
Cycle notes:
  • CNS Consistency/Efficiency touches +Battery work (Barbell) building
  • Hanging Gymnastics + BB cycling pairing into Density work
  • Progress rMU to touches with complementary Movements, and eventually into Circuits
Tough Phase #2 (3 weeks)
  • Max Snatch/CJ
  • Battery
  • Row Repeats
  • Mixed Aer Power sets
  • Alactic Capacity
Cycle notes:
  • Here we included Mixed Aer power for varied times, as well as Grinder Aer cyclical pieces and alactic work, all preparing the Athlete to Peak
Testing Phase #2 (3 weeks)
  • Max ABs Str
  • Clean Max
  • Clean Battery
  • Open 12.3
  • Amrap 90 (Overall Muscle Endurance)
Cycle notes:
9 days of Testing followed by 1 full week of Deload.
Base Phase #5 (4 weeks)
  • Build Snatch/CJ (x1/week)
  • Max AbST (x2/week)
  • Battery
  • MAP6
  • Non-Complementary Circuits
  • Ext ME (Chipper)
  • Lactic Power Build
Cycle notes:
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)
  • Sharp/Test
  • MAX Snatch/CJ
  • Battery
  • Open simulation
  • Lactic Power Build*
Cycle notes:
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)

  • ABs St
  • Battery/BB Cycling
  • MAP 5-3
  • MXMO Incremental sets
  • Lactic Power to Endurance

Cycle notes:
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)
  • Battery work
  • Non-Compl/Extend ME
  • Shitty shit-shit (Lactic End)

*Deload (1 week)

*Tough #5 into Taper (3 weeks)
  • Battery work
  • Open simulation
Cycle notes:
Here we made the full switch to Competitive style training - Practice/Refine/Sharpen
  • Maintain CNS (Snatch/CJ)
  • Consolidate Battery work
  • Build Lactic Progression (Power to Endurance)
  • MXMO Incremental sets to support Aer Base + Faster recovery
  • Maintain Battery
  • Preserve CNS
  • Build rhythm within "Game days" (Friday to Monday)
  • OPEN workouts are "simulation" not re-dos

 ASSESSMENT DATA (Oct 2020 before enter Sport-specific Phase)

  • **87kg BWT
  • Snatch = 295# (300# PR 2019)
  • Unbroken Strict HSPU = 36 (PR)
  • 30 Ring Muscle Up = 1:54/27 UB
  • 30/30x2 =178-169
  • Clean 1RM = 365#
  • Clean Battery = 325# + 27 reps
  • 2k Row = 7.36
  • 60 min Row = 16128
  • 500 mts row, rest 2 min and repeat = 1:43,1:43
  • 5RFT CV = 3.17/3.12/3.20/3.22/3.03

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.

Final Considerations

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.


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