Let’s Talk Individual Programming


A marathon runner and a recently graduated Division 1 College Running back walk into a CrossFit gym. They both want to be competitive at CrossFit and they figure with their background it will be no sweat. So they start doing the workouts of the day together, the exact same workout of the day….what happens?

This is kind of a trick question, and I know it may seem obvious, but the first thing that comes to my mind is WHY are they doing the same training in the first place? It may seem obvious in the above example, but the truth is that for the most part this is happening a little bit every day.

When someone walks up to a coach and says “Hey, I’d really like to get better at cleans, what can I do?” More often than not the coach may just say “Clean more! I’ll program it more and we will just have you clean more.” Most people think that if they just keep doing something they will get better, unfortunately there are many other fine points that need to be taken into consideration.

Since I started this off with the clean, that’s what we will take a look at. Depending on what is going on with that person and the clean there are multiple points to take into consideration.

First, is it a strength or a speed issue? Can they get under it and not stand it up, or do they front squat 100lbs more than they clean but just can’t get under it? This alone creates a certain training protocol to deal with one, or the other.

Secondly, are they both fast and strong but they are having a neuromuscular issue. They just don’t know how to properly perform the lift so their mechanics and patterning from long years of doing it wrong prevents them from achieving the lift they should be hitting. Maybe it’s not neuromuscular, maybe it’s specifically mobility. Maybe they have the worst front rack positioning you’ve ever seen and cannot get their elbows up at all. They can sling weight around all they want but can never catch it.

Angelo Fosco Custom Programming - CrossFit Fringe - Columbia MO

Lastly, maybe it’s none of those things, maybe they just cave in the bottom of their squat because they have a huge muscular imbalance when it comes to their core and scaps/lats/upper back. There are multiple minute things that could be going on with someone and no one even knows. Here’s the thing, doing it more doesn’t necessarily fix ANY of those issues. We are talking about ONE lift, not even the entire outlook / goals of an individual and we can already break it down into multiple little things. When it comes to the big goals and how a person should be training it gets even more complex. This is where individual assessment and design come in. This actually gets even muddier when we talk about muscular imbalances.

Let’s take Craig Moore and Cullen Ralphs, both Fringe (or former, farewell thee Craig) athletes, and use them as an example –hope they don’t mind! Let’s assume that both of their goals is to do well in the CrossFit Open/become competitive in CrossFit as a sport. From the little I’ve seen, I can already tell a lot about them. It starts with their build, goes into the way they lift, and what their numbers are.

  • Craig is parasympathetic dominant. This means he excels at things that are aerobic in nature, in longer, lower weight metcons and in cyclical (running/rowing/etc) events. Now, because of how dominant that system is when Craig trains, his body wants to make those adaptations as much as they can, so if he lifts and then does a ‘metcon’ you bet your butt his body is making more adaptations that favor the ‘metcon’ he just did.
  • Cullen is sympathetic dominant. This means that he excels in shorter more powerful events as well as ‘strength’ type events. We can all tell Cullen is extremely strong, but when it comes to having a motor or ‘metcons’ he doesn’t keep up near to the extent he can on strength events.

If Craig and Cullen follow the same program and do the same things, assuming it’s a balanced program, what happens? Craig gets better at metcons and Cullen gets stronger, neither of which helps them achieve their goal. This is one of the MANY reasons that individual design has gotten so popular with elite level CrossFit athletes, professional athletes, and fitness enthusiasts that want to optimize what they get from the gym.

Personal programming is 100% the single best way to maximize your results from working out, but I will be up front, there are downsides to even personal programming. It’s not necessarily as much ‘fun’ for a few reasons. The workouts are designed to attack your weaknesses, which is usually not the fun stuff for most of us. Even though we are in the gym with other people, we are doing a different workout which can be hard to stay motivated for. There is also a cost issue – individual attention requires a greater time commitment from a coach. However, the results from individual design are undeniable.

Without diving into the science too much, I’ve tried to lay out how individual designs can be more successful and why we are beginning to offer them at Fringe. Specifically, I was brought here for my knowledge on program design, to compliment and improve on our box culture.

Custom programs will include:

  • Complete assessment and goal setting session
  • Custom workout design delivered in weekly increments (includes warm-ups and cool downs)
  • Video analysis of your workouts
  • Monthly Skype or in-person sessions
  • Nutrition coaching and meal planning
  • Unlimited email support/response within 12 hours

We want to offer the best service possible, and that’s one of the reasons why we are making this offer available. At the moment I still coach multiple remote clients, but I have 10 spots available for those interested. If this is you, email me at [email protected] to set up a free 30 minute consultation. You can also email if you have any questions!