1. Not addressing your individual needs
Glancing over major weaknesses and failing to address them is a big mistake. You must address the root cause of your weaknesses in order to break through plateaus and become a better athlete. For example, athlete’s that are monsters with heavy weights but lack the engine to compete in longer chipper-style metcons obviously need to address their aerobic pathways and cardiovascular endurance. Endurance specialists who may be able to burn through high volumes of reps in a workout but struggle heavily as soon as a heavy barbell makes an appearance should aim to incorporate heavy weightlifting and accessory work into their programming.
2. Not dedicating enough time to Olympic Weightlifting
Snatches, cleans, and jerks are a big part of CrossFit. Olympic Weightlifting rewards good technique—something that takes time and dedication to develop. Considering how often we see these movements in CrossFit (as a matter of fact, our research shows that snatches are the most frequently tested movement in the CrossFit Open), it’s in your best interest to incorporate regular OLY technique and strength work into your programming.
3. Not balancing your athletic needs with your personal needs
We CrossFitters dedicate a lot of time to train in the pursuit of our respective health and fitness goals. Depending on how committed you are to those goals, you may have to sacrifice other things in your personal life. But for the sake of longevity and your personal and mental health, you must incorporate regular rest days into your programming—not solely to let your body recover from training, but to address and sustain the other important areas in your life. Very few people are able to live and work as professional athletes, so for the rest of us,we have to take time to grow in our careers, in our relationships, and to relax and have a bit of fun as well. If you don’t build a balance between these areas in your programming, eventually you’ll burn out.
4. Not utilizing wave loading
Your training should follow a sustainable wave, where intensity, volume and load are varied from day to day, week to week and month to month. For example, within the week, Monday can consist of heavy loads and light volume. Tuesday can have moderate loads and high volume. Wednesday can have light loads and moderate volume. Thursday can serve as your rest day, enabling you to go heavy with moderate volume on Friday. This is just one example, but the intent of wave programming is to break up the volume and intensity of your training sessions throughout the weeks and months that you train to allow an athlete maximize their focus, motivation and physical potential. Having back-to-back days of heavy weightlifting at high volume is going to fry your central nervous system, just as multiple days of light loads and low volume isn’t going to do much for your development.
5. Overusing 1-rep max testing
Almost everyone likes moving heavy weight, and 1-rep max days are some of the most fun days you can have in training. After all, you get quite the feeling of satisfaction and self-worth after smashing a PR and noting just how far you’ve come in the movement (when you see your former 1-rep become a 3-rep max, you know you’re turning into a beast). Yet that doesn’t mean that 1-reps should be tested every week, or even every month. Instead, they should fall towards the end of your training cycle to test your progress, as well as to establish proper percentages for training loads in the future. US International Coach for USA Weightlifting Danny Camargo has this to say on the subject:
“The frequency of maxing is at the discretion of the coach, in a traditional training setting. Many athletes don’t have a coach figuring these days out so they tend to max whenever they feel like it, which causes a randomized training intensity. That said, my answer is this: newer practitioners and intermediate athletes should max every 6-8 weeks. The time spent in-between is building towards those maxes. Advanced and elite lifters should max according to their competition schedule which is normally only 4-5x per year, so once every once every 12-15 weeks.”
6. Not incorporating rowing, running and Assault bike work as monstructural metabolic conditioning components in your training
‘Monostructural’ refers to a repeated pattern of motion like running, biking, or rowing. Metabolic conditioning describes exercises that are used to increase the storage and delivery of energy in an athlete. These three exercises are fantastic ways to increase both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, but they need to be addressed as single components in a workout—not solely as a part of a metcon combined with other movements. Just as you perform strength and gymnastic work with various volume and load schemes, so too should you address your metabolic conditioning in the same manner. You can vary the pace and distance on your runs, rows, or Assault bike work to train your anaerobic system (crucial for sprint work, training this system helps your body tap into energy sources stored in your muscles since your body’s demand for oxygen exceeds the supply available), or your aerobic system (important for longer workouts, where your body needs to be efficient at taking oxygen in and distributing blood to the working muscles).
On top of building serious cardiovascular capacity, programming your runs, rows and bike as monostructural components allows you to spend time refining and improving your technique in the movement. So don’t rely on improving your engine and cardio technique through metcons alone—program that work in as a monostructural component and reap the benefits.