Steve here to help explain how to decipher how our workouts are often written, and what it means when you see things written on the whiteboard in a certain way. It has been said that if you have a hard time explaining something to a six year old, you probably don’t understand it yourself! One of the hardest things about jumping into a new fitness routine – whether it’s CrossFit, Barre, Yoga or spin class – is understanding the ‘lingo’ and the ‘why’ behind it. Why am I doing this? What does that even mean? What purpose does this have and does it make sense for me to do this? Sometimes, even experienced CrossFitters have a hard time explaining to someone on the outside looking in about what they do and why they do it beyond the standard it’s ‘hard and fun’! Hopefully this will shed some light on some things for both beginner and experienced CrossFitters!
We’ll start with phrases or concepts that typically describe strength or skill components. Here we go!
A or B/C/D movements.
Typically the first component you encounter with a strength or skill is known as the A movement. This may read:
A. Deadlift @3010 x 6 x 2-3 rest 2-3 minutes.
The A. means that this is the first movement to be done that day. Whatever follows after the A is the strength or skill that will be performed first. It may also read as a superset:
A1. Deadlift @3010 x 6x 2-3 rest 1 minute
A2. Strict Press @3011 x 6x 2-3 rest 1 minute
In this case you alternate between A1 and A2. On certain days you may also encounter a B or C movement as well. Just remember you complete all A sets before B sets before C sets etc. It may look like this:
A1. Deadlift @3010 x 2-3 x 6 Rest 1 minute
A2. Strict Press @3011 x 2-3 x 6 Rest 2 minutes
B. Kettlebell Swings x 20-25 x 3 Rest as needed
Without getting too long winded, tempo simply refers to the amount of time it should take you to complete one repetition. More specifically it represents the amount of time under tension you will be under during 1 rep. Tempo creates control, safety, repeatability, and it allows you to pick on weaknesses. It may be written as 3010, 3011, 4010 etc.- obviously there are many options here! Each number represents a different phase of the lift.
Here is an example for a back squat @3011:
3 This is the eccentric or lowering phase
0 This is the amount of time you spend at the bottom
1 This is the concentric or ‘lifting’ portion
1 This is the amount of time you will spend at the top after the concentric
For more detailed information about tempo, take a few minutes to watch this video.
Reps refer to the number of times a movement will be completed. Reps are the king in terms of strength/skill work and training effect.
We typically write reps with ranges. For example 2-3, 5-7, 8-10 etc. This allows for slight changes in percentages (based off 1RM) and enables athletes to get the correct training response.
The reason reps are king is because they determine sets, speed of contraction or time under tension, rest and choice of movement.
Generally speaking, advanced athletes perform less repetitions with higher intensity/complexity while beginner athletes more repetitions with less intensity/complexity.
Sets refer to the amount of repetitions that will be completed at one time. From the example below you can see that you would complete 2-3 repetitions for 6 sets.
A1. Deadlift @3010 x 2-3 x 6 (sets) rest 1 minute
A2. Strict Press @3011 x 2-3 x 6 (sets) rest 1 minute
As a general rule, the more experience you have (or higher training age), the more sets you will complete (but less reps). The less experience you have (or lower training age) the lower the number of sets (but more reps).
Without getting too far into the weeds:
As reps go up, sets go down
As reps go down, sets go up
This is because beginners need more touches on certain movements to develop the nervous system, coordination, and technique. This will also force them to use lower weights and create more control and safety. Intermediate/Advanced trainees on the other hand, need more intensity, complexity and variation. They would complete less reps but the intensity/complexity would be much higher.
I think one of the most overlooked aspects of strength or skill work is the amount of rest taken between sets. As a general rule, the higher the intensity (or weight/demand of skill) the greater the rest needs to be. The lower the intensity, the less rest needed. The point of taking a rest in between sets is to allow the nervous system to recover or mostly recover from the previous bout of work.
I personally think this gets often overlooked or rushed because the very nature sometimes of what we do in a workout or WOD is done with high intensity with little to no rest. When performing strength/skill work, or energy system training however ensuring proper rest is critical for proper long term development.
This should be fun 🙂
Here is a list of common acronyms or phrases one may encounter in a CrossFit class or Individualized program at Twenty Pound Hammer:
WOD – Workout of the Day. This usually includes a strength or skill component as well as a metabolic conditioning component.
METCON– Metabolic Conditioning. What people often refer to as “the workout.” It is typically either time or task dependent.
No Rep- This is what happens when a movement is not completed to standard!
AMRAP- As Many Rounds As Possible in a given time domain.
EMOM- Every Minute On the Minute. This is an interval style workout which calls for a certain number of repetitions to be completed at the top of each minute for a determined amount of time.
BWT– Refers to bodyweight
C+J- Clean and Jerk
GHD- Refers to the device that allows for the glute ham raise or GHD sit-up
GPP- General Physical Preparedness
KBS- Kettelbell Swings. These can be performed ‘American style’ or ‘Russian style’.
RX’d- A workout or prescription done as written without any scaling adjustments.
TTB- Toes To Bar. A gymnastics movement.
AFAP- As fast as possible.
C2 or Erg- Refers to the rowing machine on which one rows- not a rower 😉
OHS- Overhead Squat
PR- Personal Record..YES!!!
TGU- Turkish Get Up
Kipping- Usually refers to kipping pull-ups, muscle-ups or dips
STFU- It’s about that time..
Hopefully you now have a basic understanding of the how and why behind what we do as well as a better understanding of CrossFit lingo! The goal is for each member to have fitness be meaningful for them. Whether your goals are to climb a mountain, ski, run trails, look good naked, be a healthy parent and/or spouse, or a competitive fitness athlete- understanding the how, what and why behind what you’re doing is essential for making progress towards your goals.