Preparing For the Crossfit Games Opens: Managing Volume & Intensity

by Evan Peikon
Forward
As the title of the article suggests, the purpose of this piece is to help shed some light on how to prepare for the opens in terms of managing training intensity/load prior to and during the opens. I’ll also cover the ideas surrounding the topic in order to give context and help elaborate on the points I will later present. However, before I get started I want to throw out the caveat that these are general guidelines and they will differ from athlete to athlete depending on training age, individual physiology, speed of adaptation, etc. With these recommendations, it is also assumed that the athlete has also followed a properly periodized training plan leading up to tis point (in terms of both training priority and volume/intensity).
This article also assumes the athlete’s focus is the Open. If the athlete’s focus is on regionals or the games they would approach this in a different manner.
**Note that there are times when we intentionally break the rules discussed in this article. However, we do so for a specific reason at a specific time. When first starting to implement them follow these best practices. Once you know how a given athletes body works/reacts you can begin to deviate/ tinker.

Periodization Part I (Phases of Training)
For a more detailed explanation of how i’d break up the year in terms of phases check out the following article Click HERE.
For the sake of this article, the following breakdown of phases should be sufficient….

Training Phase

~Start and End Dates

Accumulation Phase I

May –> August

Accumulation Phase II

August –> November

Transition Phase/ Intensification Part I

November –> January

Intensification Part II/ Pre-Competition Phase

January –> March

Opens

~March –> ~April

Post-Open Testing Phase/ De-load

April –> May

As you can see, I break the intensification phase into two parts.
The first part stars in mid-october and ends in mid-december to mid-january. This phase is dedicated to increasing intensity of both Energy System and ATP-CP work following the accumulation phase where an aerobic base was built and structural integrity was made. This phase also serves as a transition to the max effort and high intensity work that will come shortly. This phase also differs from Intensification Part II in the sense that I would continue to build volume in this phase (of both sub maximal and near maximal work) while I tend to either wave load or maintain volume during the second Intensification Phase.
The Second half of the Intensification Phase starts mid-december to mid-january and ends between the middle of february and the beginning of march depending on where the athlete is standing relative to the opens. The purpose of this phase is to maximize all Energy systems such that the athlete is set up to peak during the opens.

Periodization Part II (Volume, Intensity and Focus)
As a general rule an increase in Intensity means a decrease in volume (Note that there are times when we intentionally break the rules. The purpose here is to provide a general guideline). Though there is a lot of grey area in that statement (Ie- As I previously mentioned I build volume and Intensity during Intensification P1), I tend to follow it more closely during Intensification Phase II.
 One of the reasons for a more moderate approach to volume during the second half of intensification is that the higher effort work being done (specifically longer anaerobic work) is damaging to the nervous system.
However, we still want sufficient volume to elicit a stimulus and keep the athlete improving. There are myriads of ways to accomplish this but i’ll discuss my two preferred methods…
The first method is to wave load training volume. In this instance the period of each wave is athlete dependent. But, in general terms we want to make it long enough that the athlete makes steady progress and short enough that the athlete doesn’t redline their body. The best way to decide the length of each wave is to take a daily HRV measurement and manually figure out how much stress is on the athletes system and where their “readiness” to train lies. For more info of HRV, and its relation to training click HERE.
The second method is to keep volume fairly constant. In this instance you would still take HRV measurement, and based off the results you can titrate volume up and down as needed to match the athletes speed of adaptation. 
In regards to volume during the actual opens I recommend lower volume relative to intensification to ensure full recovery. However, we still want a few intense sessions each week (2-3), but the other training days will be lower intensity energy system/CP based work for maintenance. 

Opens:
There are a few ways to approach the opens in terms of training splits, but for all intents and purposes i’ll discuss that of a balanced athlete (and how to modify it)….

To start i’d make monday and friday off days. Since the Open workout is released Wednesday night. This allows the athlete to do a run through on thursday (which is often an off day in most programs), take friday off, and then hit the Open workout again on saturday. Though this same concept can be applied with doing the run through on friday and adjusting the days as needed, I prefer to not leave the open workout for sunday. 

Next ill cover the training focuses on the remaining days of the week. Instead of explaining it in written form i’ll write out three general training splits. One for a balanced athlete, Powerful athlete, and enduring athlete (Which are extremely general terms… Also note that these don’t take the human factor or grey areas into account so they are just to get you thinking).

M- Off
T- Moderate Volume Intense Strength/Oly + Short Density Piece 
W- Open Based Skills (TnG work, MU’s etc) +Moderate Intensity Cyclical  ES work to prime system 
Th- Open Run Through 
F- Off
Sa- Opens
Su- Moderate Intensity Strength/Oly +Longer Low effort aerobic work for recovery (depends entirely on what the workout is)

If the athlete in question was more powerful than enduring and more advanced in terms of strength then CP/Oly volume would be lower on tuesday/ sunday. Instead more attention would be put on energy system work. On the other hand if the athlete was weaker then average then more attention would be put on strength and olympic lifting work. Obviously those are general/blanket statements, but it gives an idea of how to skin the cat differently. 
**Side Note: the run-through can either be prep work, a portion of the workout, or the actual workout depending on the athlete.

Recovery

The last point i’m going to make is about recovery work. 
Leading up to the opens and during the opens I recommend that athletes spend at least 20 minutes dedicated to mobility work and stretching in the evening. This will both put you in a relaxed state and calm the nervous system which will help with recovery. If you have time adding in a 20 minute recovery spin early in the morning will help too. And depending on how serious you are with competing getting a weekly or bi-weekly massage would be wise.

For other, more detailed, tips on recovery check out the following articles:
Parasympathetic Vs. Sympathetic Overtraining
Rest & Recovery 

 

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