Programming Analysis, Part 3: Workout Selection & Frequency

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Editor’s Note: Programming Analysis: Part 3” was originally posted to the Beyond the Whiteboard blog on 5 June 2014 and is re-posted here with permission. Programming Analysis, Part 3: Workout Selection & Frequency has been posting a single Workout of the Day (WOD) on their main page since 2001. This seemingly innocuous act has snowballed into the most disruptive fitness movement the industry has ever seen. It has led to over 9,000 independently owned CrossFit® Affiliate Gyms, and over 200,000 competitors in the Sport of Fitness™.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the programming based on Workout Modality. In Part 2, we looked at Movement Selection and Frequency. In Part 3, we are looking at Workout Selection and Frequency.

Workout Selection and Frequency (2008-2013)

The biggest trend we’re seeing in the programming is a departure from the historical practice of frequently repeating workouts. This represents a huge paradigm shift.
Here are some overall stats (2008-2013):

  • Total Unique Workouts assigned: 771
  • Total Workouts assigned only once: 521
  • Total Workouts assigned more than once: 250
  • Number of Workouts assigned at least once every year: 22

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 2.14.29 PMScreen Shot 2014-06-04 at 2.15.32 PM

There is a clear difference between the 2008-2009 period and the 2010-2013 period in regards to workout repetition. In the former period, only 58% of the 131 workouts were not repeated. In the latter period, 84% of the 246 workouts were not repeated. We also see a huge decline in the number of times a workout was repeated in the latter period, with very few workouts being assigned more than twice.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 5.19.39 PM

We can see that starting in 2010, there was a huge departure from the historical practice of frequently repeating workouts. Beginning in 2003, began regularly assigning “Benchmark Workouts.” According to Coach Glassman, the intention of these workouts was to “measure and benchmark your performance and improvements through repeated, irregular, appearances in the ‘Workout of the Day.’” I was frankly very surprised when I saw the paradigm shifting away from repeating workouts in 2010. I’m not sure the reasoning, but this is a pretty dramatic global shift in programming.

One possible explanation is that Benchmarks are merely tests that don’t need to be repeated as often as they once were. This would support the idea that workouts designed to “test” fitness are not necessarily the best workouts for developing fitness. I’m not sure I agree with this, but this is not the first time I’ve heard this idea proposed.

In 2008, 57 workouts were assigned more than once. In 2013, only 36 were. In 2008, there were 74 workouts assigned only once. In 2013, there were 210.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 1.43.59 PM

In 2013, most of the repeated workouts were only repeated twice that year, and 75% of the WODs weren’t repeated at all. In 2008, 26% of the workouts were assigned only once. The remaining 75% were assigned an average of 3.6 times.
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