Several months ago, I had some conversations with Garrett Smith and a few others regarding the potential benefits of increased strength and gymnastics programming and shorter metcons sessions. I embarked on a 12-week project where I was going to do a mixture of gymnastics, Olympic lifting, and slow lifting with limited metabolic conditioning. All metcons were to be kept under 10 minutes, and most of them had a strength-bias. We suspected that 1) strength is the most important aspect of metcon, and 2) excessive metcon is unnecessary and possibly counterproductive.
I unofficially ended the project last week with PRs in the CFT and deadlift. Over a 10.5 week training period (45 training sessions to be precise), I hit 21 PRs in strength, metcon, and mixed workouts. Several of those broke long-standing PRs. A couple of them broke PRs set during this project.
I am making no conclusions beyond what worked for me. And what worked for me was a blend of strength, power, and gymnastics training with short, intense, and usually heavy metcons. I didn’t have to put up with sore joints like I did doing pure strength work, and I didn’t have to deal with a fried CNS like I did doing pure Crossfit. It’s a nice blend that kept me interested and focused every training session. I also recovered well (Saturday was an optional training day; I often skipped it, giving me a 4 day training week). Incidentally, I dropped body fat and increased my LBM over the last several months. -Gant Grimes
II. The Hybrid Program
1. Hybrid Program Notes
• These programs will increase static strength, explosive strength, and limit strength. This increase in strength will lead to substantial improvements in metabolic conditioning.
• Metcon should be short and intense. Keep it under 10 minutes (usually under 5). Keep it heavy, and keep it functional. Select workouts that require very little rest. Scale reps, rounds, or time before scaling weight! (This might be the most important bit you'll read on this). This is key to the neuroendocrine response we’re looking for. Find heavy metcons here.
• Use KB’s, tires, farming implements, stones, boat chains, and sledgehammers liberally. Row and Sprint often (Tabatas, 100s, 200s, 400s). Full body exercises (cleans, thrusters, swings) are great. Use couplets and triplets. NO chipper workouts.
• The exercise order and selection promotes increases in strength and, if you eat for it, lean mass. Everything you do on this program packs a substantial neuroendocrine wallop. Pick your metcon exercises accordingly. You should be shaving twice a day on this program.
• Eat more protein. If you’re Zoning, increase protein intake by 2-4 blocks and fat by 8-16 blocks. Do not increase your carbs (I have accounted for them in the fat increase).
• Go heavy, go hard, or don’t go at all. The volume is low enough, and the metcons are short enough that your CNS should be stable throughout the program. If you need a day off, take it. Don’t tear your body down while it’s trying to build itself up.
• Don't overthink it.
• Sleep like a fifth-year senior.
• Eat like the locusts of a Biblical plague.
• Eat lots of red meat. It’s just better. Consuming large quantities of blood-soaked animal tissue puts you in a better frame of mind to train like this. If you eat eggs, eat whole eggs.
2. Hybrid Program Variations
• There are three programs.
• The 3/1 program. I designed one for people who like the 3/1 CF schedule. Personally, I think 6 workouts in 8 days is a bit much. But you wanted it, so here it is.
• The novice strength-biased program. This is a 3/1/2/1 schedule. I got used to training like this doing the PMenu WOD, and I like it. It’s also an intermediate programming scheme discussed in Practical Programming. I wrote this program because I train with a guy who doesn’t need to do as much OLY lifting as I do. The power versions of the OLY lifts are done. There is also an extra day of push presses or rack jerks. If you train on Saturday, just do a regular WOD (this can be a little longer). If you train with weights, keep it light and drill some OLY lifts.
• The intermediate/advanced strength-biased program. This is my personal program. Saturday is optional. This is where I drill OLY by doing assistance exercises (snatch balance, tall cleans, etc.) and get on the rings. Or I get in the canoe, go mountain biking, or play a little judo. Saturday is not a hard training day for me. So yeah, I pretty much train 4 out of 7 days.
• For awhile, I was using a 5-day Practical Programming template for a beginning intermediate (H,M,H,off,H,L,off). Of course, you don't really program the OLY lifts that way, so there was a hodge podge of stuff in my log. The template I put out is also a little different from what I actually did. I'm trying to accommodate the advanced-novice to advanced-intermediate. Everybody can tailor the template to their own needs.
3. Other Concerns
• Do other stuff. It’s summer time. Walk, swim, play softball, ride a bike. Whatever. Don’t pass a bar, set of rings, or rock ledge without pulling yourself up on it.
• Substitute if you feel the need. I refuse to miss Murph or Filthy Fifty. If one of your favorite WOD comes up, do it.
• The exercise order optimizes the ability to work circa max in each exercise. If you don't understand why, don't change it.
• The exercise selection is based on the the neuroendocrine response and systemic adaptations associated with each.
• Deadlift every week. They’re good for your soul. Cool down with reverse hypers 2-4 times a week. They’re good for your deadlifts and thus good for your soul. Your back will thank you.
• 5 minutes a week of KB long-cycle clean & jerks has profound effects.
• Read Christopher Sommer’s article on front lever progressions (also has planche progressions).
• Read up on the Bulgarian method.
• Squat low for training. If you’re a guy, try to tea-bag the platform. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll be able to lift in a CFT when you only squat to regulation depth.
• The abbreviations are days of the week and weight, so M=Monday, T=Tuesday, etc. And it goes Heavy, Moderate, Light. Heavy is near maximal weight. Moderate is about 80-85% of max for several sets across; it's good for volume. Light is for drilling only on OLY lifts.
4. Sets, reps, and exercises (sets x reps)
• Welcome back to linear progression! We’re going to get stronger every week. Linear strength progression works a little differently in a program with gymnastics and metcon, so pay attention to what’s happening. I have borrowed heavily from Rippetoe, Everett, and Louie Simmons in designing this.
• OLY lifts should be 5-8 sets (or more) of singles or doubles. Look to Coach Burgener or the PMenu for additional programming ideas. You have to be careful with your loads and volume on this stuff. It can sneak up on you.
• The slow lifts should start with 3x5 (including dips and pull-ups). Drop to 3x3 after 6 weeks or whenever the volume becomes too much. You may also want to mix in some 5x3, 5x2 or 7x1. It’s your program! Eventually you’ll almost exclusively be doing either 1) med volume/high intensity or 2) low volume/stupid intensity!
• Only do one work set on the deadlift if you’re working with max numbers.
• Mix sets across with progressive loading. You can do 3x3 across one week and 5x3 progressive (working up to a 3RM) the next. Do progressive loading at least once every third workout for each respective lift.
• Work in some ME/DE days as necessary. We’re all about speed and power. I mix in plenty of box squatting so I can squat frequently. It helps your deadlift, too. Reverse hypers help everything.
• Westside box squats. Using about 50-60% of your 1RM squat down to a box, pause, and explode up. Westside recommends sets of 2 as the bar will slow down with reps beyond this.
• Deadlift every week (it’s worth repeating). If it tears you up like it does me, mix in some rack pulls and halting deadlifts. I love 3x6 snatch grip deadlifts off a 4” box.
• Substitute OLY lifts as needed. Play with the full and hang positions to optimize results. If you’re on the advanced program, do the full version at least once a week.
• I'd squat 3x per week, doing back squats twice per week and maybe OHS and front squats on a third (or fourth) day.
• For warm-ups, "rings x 2" means 2 sets of that progression. I do however many reps I feel like doing. And that's not very many. Within the warm-ups I do less than 50 pullups, pushups, and squats per week (and zero situps).
• The order of exercises is vital. You want speed, technique, and accuracy. You also want full use of your hips:
Warm-up >>> Gymnastics/Progressions >>> Oly Lifts/DE >>> Slow lifts/ME >>> Short strength based metcon (<10 min) >>> Posterior-Chain Movement
In rare cases, I'll do metcon first. For instance, if Fran comes up, I'll do that first before doing ME front squats. It just works for me.
5. Bottom Line
• Go fast, go heavy, and go hard. If you're doing sets across, increase it every time. Don't reset if you fail at 5, just drop to 3. If you're doing CF ME work (5 triples, 7 singles), go for a PR every time. Metcons are short, heavy, and functional. Don't rest.