The CrossFit plateau

That’s me – a plateau

As I wrote just a few weeks ago: I need a change. I have definitely plateaued. I continue to read more and more that tells me I need specific training rather than “constantly varied” to get stronger and then I read this:

It describes me almost perfectly

Here are some the excerpts that really hit the nail on the head.

You check in on the website the night before and, when hitting “refresh” reveals tomorrow’s WOD, that rush of fear, anxiety, and eagerness shoots right through your belly. And while your gut tells you it’s going to be awful, your head still says, “This will be epic!”

That was totally me when I first signed up at CrossFit LoDo in 2011. I would nail that refresh key in hopes that I would get tomorrow’s WOD before I went to sleep. If I went to bed before the WOD was released I would wake up and, other than going to the bathroom immediately, I would check my phone to see the WOD. I would get in the car, eager and banana in hand and rush down to LoDo. I would arrive in the parking lot, music blasting and just freaking PUMPED to get inside and do the WOD. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing a WOD I didn’t want to partake in. It was definitely more like the first month of dating than the honeymoon.

After a while I would do the WOD and then do some heavy lifting before showering and heading to work. I made some serious jumps in strength gains in my first six months to a year at LoDo.

You go from not being able to do a single pull up or double under to being fairly proficient.

For this guy, it was well past the honeymoon phase before I got my first double-under. I almost had a divorce over double-unders.

In your honeymoon phase, your gym is the best gym in the entire universe, your coaches are the best trainers in the whole of CrossFit.

I wonder, honestly, if this is still why I feel so strongly about the trainers at LoDo. I probably had on rose colored glasses. Not that the coaches at LoDo aren’t any good, but Leo, Ryan and Georgia got me hooked, got me in shape and I owe them a bunch. I will always think about LoDo very positively and always have a warm spot in my heart for that place and the people.

If you are at a “heroes and girls” box that does daily fifteen to twenty minute metcons the majority of the time, then this plateau is going to hit you hard.

Unfortunately I think this is my box. There are more and more people doing supplemental programming of sorts or not doing the WODs prescribed. This week Barbara was one of the WODs and last week there was a hero WOD. It’s not rare that there is a birthday WOD and it does seem like there are a lot of workouts that take 15 minutes or longer. Now this cannot be a broad brush to paint all of the programming – today they did three separate EMOM’s with heavy weight. In any case the programming doesn’t have the periodization needed – including strictly strength days or strength programming – to make me stronger.

To be honest, this is probably the PERFECT sort of programming for 95% of the athletes that are members of my box. They love to come in and sweat. Whenever we have a single modality day intended to help strength more of the members (mostly the females) seem disinterested and don’t put forth the effort required to make a workout like that beneficial. Hard to hate on anyone who gives the vast majority of their clientele what they want – and at my box that is longer WODs that leave you lying on the floor. Many of the members of my box would rather see running miles than a 5-5-5-5 back squat day.

And then it gets a bit scary…

Where you could once hop up on the bar and rep out pull ups with abandon, you are now noticing some shoulder pain. Or pain in your elbow joint, or your forearms, or your knees.

My knees do hurt until I do about 5-10 squats to “oil” my knees. My right elbow and shoulder have both been hurting. I think the elbow is more carpal tunnel then training related (it feels pretty good right now and I haven’t been at work since last Friday). The shoulder comes and goes and even hurts sometimes in the mornings when I first wake up. I had a WOD last week that started with 100 pullups and it felt like it took me forever to complete them. Yesterday was a ladder with pullups and, again, they felt rough, almost like they were harder then they were a few months ago.

Am I actually getting weaker? Is this why I feel like my squat just won’t budge? This is why I am doing TF Black.

That isn’t where it stops reading like a diary of my training life, either:

…tempted to do: double up on the metcons. You start doing two-a-days or supplementing the WOD with a couple of miles of running.

I have definitely done two-a-days and just late last month, before a long Saturday WOD of all days, I ran three miles interval style. I supplemented my boxes WODs with Smolov programming to hopefully see strength gains. I have done all sorts of things like this in the past six months or so in hopes of continuing to improve. Sure, I have improved a little bit, but not what I think I am capable of.

…you feel you need the “Filthy 50” and “Fight Gone Bad” to make a dent in the ever-creeping softness…

I only throw this quote in here because I think it might a subtle shot at the “programming” provided on They did the Filthy 50 and FGB back-t0-back just the other day. Guys like Jason Khalipa and Rich Froning insist that they just do constantly varied and that they don’t know what they are going to do any given day until they show up to the gym. Most anyone that knows anything about increasing strength knows that that isn’t possible – or at the very least highly unlikely. More likely the published WODs that Khalipa supposedly partakes in daily are just the tip of the iceberg and he has a structured plan that he also uses to continually increase his strength numbers.

This was the first part of a two part series and I can’t wait to read part two. If it is anything like part one I am guessing it will hit home and hopefully have some good recommendations to help me get off of this plateau and continue up the mountain.

4 comments on “The CrossFit plateau

  1. rachelaugh says:

    I read that article too. I am in month 8 of Crossfit, and I love it, I’ve started getting some injuries (nothing serious)…but some lower back, some shoulder-pain.

    I hope that I don’t fall OUT of love with Crossfit. At this point, I’m still challenged every day, I’m still excited and nervous before each WOD, so we’ll see what happens in a 10 months from now.

    Our box is relatively new, so we don’t do a “lady” workout or a “Hero WOD” every week…but we do them on occasion.

    Only the future will tell I guess right?

    • traviseses says:

      I haven’t fallen out of love with CrossFit by any means. I think programming on TF Black is still CrossFit, just not completely random constantly varied, if that makes sense? It has deload weeks programmed and property volume so as to not overtrain.

  2. MattJ says:

    This is a very real thing. I’ve had the exact progression over 1 1/2 years of doing crossfit. About 3 months ago, many of my fellow cf’ers started to shop new boxes because we all hit the same plateaus and started sneaking supplemental work whenever we could. Ironically, a new trainer came in and changed the daily programming to strength (% based on 1rm) + metcon w/ an overall training goal in sight. We all stayed, got stronger, faster, fell back in love with our box. However, the programming recently went back to girls & heroes…and now we’re back to square 1. The difference seems to be exercising vs. training. Each box seems to embrace 1 philosophy over the other. Great post.

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