The whole lot You Have to Know About Progressive Overload for CrossFit Coaching


When you’re new to CrossFit, you can also make unbelievable progress by simply exhibiting up constantly every week. The variation in exercises and publicity to practical actions will present a strong stimulus, permitting you to get stronger and fitter with little or no planning. Your most important focus throughout this newbie interval ought to be to study the proper kind for every motion and construct a powerful basis.

A person wearing an aqua t-shirt and shorts performs a snatch with a loaded barbell.
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Finally, merely exhibiting as much as the gymnasium won’t be sufficient to proceed making features. You’ll have to take a extra strategic method to coaching as a way to proceed bettering. Right now, we’re going to evaluation progressive overloadthe right way to strategically make your CrossFit exercises more practical and break via plateaus — and the totally different strategies you may apply to your day-to-day coaching.

What’s Progressive Overload?

Progressive overload is the observe of creating actions and exercises tougher over time to proceed development and growth. This intention and focus creates the excellence between coaching and merely exercising. 

If you train, it’s nice — however you don’t essentially have an even bigger plan. If you hyperlink your workouts into a program to coach, you’re centered on tangible enchancment in direction of a objective. 

Progressive Overload in CrossFit

Within the context of CrossFit coaching, the objective is growing well-rounded health — or, as some want, practical health or normal bodily preparedness. To realize this broad vary of health expertise, CrossFit makes use of totally different modalities, reminiscent of weightlifting, gymnastics, and monostructural actions. These mix a number of practical actions into timed or AMRAP (as many rounds as potential) exercises.

This library of actions is blended into totally different combos of time frames, weights, gear, and repetition schemes. CrossFit makes use of as a lot selection as potential to provide the broadest potential vary of health. Because of this, in any given CrossFit coaching program, there are many various methods to progressively overload towards enchancment.

Completely different Beginning Factors

Every particular person will begin with a distinct baseline of health and athletic background. For instance, some individuals have a background in or affinity for weightlifting, whereas others could also be higher fitted to endurance coaching.

Because of this there may be not a cookie cutter mannequin for progressive overload. Every particular person must apply the totally different strategies of progressive overload to goal their particular weaknesses and targets. 

Strategies of Progressive Overload 

There are a number of strategies of progressive overload you can apply to power coaching of any variety. The fundamental precept is about steadily growing one issue at a time so that you simply’re making your coaching tougher with out doing an excessive amount of too quick.

A few of these progressive overload strategies are: 

  • Growing Vary of Movement
  • Growing Repetitions (quantity)
  • Growing Weight
  • Reducing Relaxation Durations 
  • Growing Density (doing the identical work in much less time) 
  • Growing Frequency (doing the identical load and quantity extra usually) 

Because of the diversified nature of CrossFit, understanding these totally different strategies will assist you to modify every day of coaching to get probably the most out of your exercise.

Progressive Overload for CrossFit WODs

In powerlifting packages, you already know what lifts and weights you’re going to do every single day in the load room. It’s the identical with weightlifting and bodybuilding packages — revolutionary and variable, however predictable.

CrossFit is something however predictable, whereas progressive overload is strategically deliberate and steadily. However progressive overload can nonetheless be utilized in CrossFit. Right here’s how.

Growing Vary of Movement

The practical actions utilized in CrossFit are supposed to be skilled at a full vary of movement. Limitations in your mobility will inhibit your capacity to take care of good kind, which might put you at the next threat for harm

Alternatively, pushing your mobility too onerous too quick may also set you up for unintended failure. So if you wish to get higher at CrossFit, steadily growing your vary of movement is a superb methodology of progressive overload.

A person performs a one-arm dumbbell overhead squat to full depth.
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Discover a spread of movement that means that you can keep good kind for a given motion. This ought to be snug and constant for each repetition. Every subsequent exercise that you simply carry out the motion, attempt to barely improve the vary of movement whereas nonetheless sustaining good kind. Let kind information the pace of your development, solely growing the vary as kind permits. Over time, following this methodology it is possible for you to to execute the motion at full vary with no discomfort.

Throughout this course of, don’t improve your weight and reps. As an alternative, solely focus in your vary of movement. With every time you observe a motion — an overhead squat, for instance — sink somewhat deeper into the squat.

Growing Repetitions

With the ability to carry out extra work is a key factor of accelerating general health. A preferred exercise format is the AMRAP (as many reps or rounds as potential). These exercises prescribe a given period of time to do as a lot work as potential of a given circuit

An ideal instance can be the exercise Cindy, which is 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats repeated for 20 minutes. When you had been in a position to carry out 15 rounds the primary time you examined this exercise, the objective can be to extend the whole quantity and beat your earlier rating. The secret’s to not change every other variable when progressively overloading with a rise in your repetitions.

For instance, in case you modified to band-assisted pull-ups and knee push-ups, you shouldn’t try to extend the problem of the actions whereas concurrently attempting to improve the repetitions from a earlier rating. Deal with growing one factor at a time to see tangible progress. Solely if you attain your repetition objective must you begin fascinated by progressing the motion problem.

Growing Weight

Including extra weight is the most well-liked methodology of progressive overload for power segments in CrossFit. Make sure to hold the rep depend in thoughts when attempting to extend weight from a earlier session. For instance, in case you carried out a heavy snatch for one rep in your final session, however at present is asking for a heavy 5 reps, now isn’t the time to try to add weight. 

Diverse power programming would require you to maintain a file of your totally different raise weights in varied rep ranges. When you’re growing weight as your present methodology of progressive overload, try to extend weight every time a rep vary is repeated

Reducing Relaxation Durations 

Step by step utilizing shorter relaxation durations helps you increase muscle endurance growth and improve conditioning

For instance, say you’re trying to enhance your toes-to-bar stamina. You could possibly begin by performing 10 reps each 90 seconds for seven units, totalling 70 reps general. Repeat this exercise every week whereas lowering 10 seconds from the remaining interval every time. This could imply that inside 4 weeks, you may be performing 10 toes-to-bar each 50 seconds. Though the whole quantity didn’t improve, your restoration and muscle endurance can have improved. 

This methodology will also be utilized to face alone power coaching and monostructural periods (with a number of strikes per session). Programming work and relaxation intervals means that you can manipulate the depth of a session.

Growing Density 

Growing density refers back to the capacity to carry out the identical quantity of labor in much less time. This methodology is extraordinarily common in CrossFit, as a lot of the common benchmark exercises are scored for time. 

For instance, the benchmark exercise Fran is has you carry out units of thrusters and pull-ups in three units of 21, 15, and 9 reps for time. As prescribed, males use a 95-pound barbell whereas ladies use a 65-pound barbell. (Whereas CrossFit permits trans athletes to compete with different athletes from their very own gender, there aren’t any official load requirements for nonbinary athletes.)

With benchmark exercises like this, the work and requirements are assigned and also you attempt to full it as quick as potential. Periodically repeating benchmarks such because the one listed above is a vital a part of measuring your progress.

Growing Frequency

It’s unusual to repeat a motion inside every week of coaching at a CrossFit field. That is usually why it takes individuals so lengthy to develop increased degree expertise

As an alternative of accelerating your exercise frequency by including extra of the identical WODs inside every week, you may take into account including an additional talent day to extend publicity to sure actions you’re trying to enhance

Coaching for motion expertise will assist you improve your frequency with out consuming an excessive amount of into your restoration. You’ll additionally enhance your approach, positional power, and muscle reminiscence

Progressive Overload for CrossFit Conditioning

Progressive overload is usually utilized to the power coaching portion of CrossFit. But it surely’s usually much less clear on the right way to progress in conditioning exercises. Since exercises aren’t repeated on a constant foundation and actions might solely be carried out as soon as each few weeks, how are you imagined to make progress with such irregularity of publicity? 

Step one is knowing the totally different targets of every exercise. A few of the inquiries to ask your self — and your coach if in case you have one — embrace:

  • What’s the time area for the exercise?
    • Dash (lower than 5 minutes)
    • Brief (5 to 10 minutes) 
    • Medium (10-20 minutes)
    • Lengthy (20+ minutes) 
  • If there’s a lifting motion, how ought to the load really feel? 
    • Mild (low depth)
    • Reasonably heavy (medium depth)
    • Very heavy (excessive depth)
  • If it’s a cardio motion, how lengthy ought to the gap take to finish every spherical?
  • How ought to actions be damaged up every spherical?
    • Carry out every set unbroken
    • Carry out every set damaged down into smaller units
  • How lengthy ought to every full spherical take?
  • If the exercise is for time, how lengthy ought to it take?
  • If the exercise is for reps, what number of must you have the ability to full within the allotted time?

When you’re taking a CrossFit class in an affiliate gymnasium, your coach ought to evaluation these factors on the whiteboard temporary when explaining the exercise of the day. If any of those factors aren’t addressed, remember to ask questions so you may plan the right way to modify and assault the exercise based mostly in your wants and talents.

Beneath, we’ll evaluation three examples of assessing the targets of the exercise and implementing progressive overload with common CrossFit exercises. You possibly can take the rules used right here and apply them to different exercises by yourself.


For this basic benchmark exercise, you’ll carry out: 

3 rounds for time of:

Girls: 35-pound kettlebell

Males: 53-pound kettlebell

As prescribed, the run ought to be quick, taking not than 3:00 every spherical. If that’s too quick for you, go at a tempo that’s quick relative to your personal capacity degree

The kettlebell swings are imagined to really feel gentle and ought to be carried out unbroken — if wanted, use a lighter weight than prescribed to make this potential

The pull-ups shouldn’t be damaged greater than as soon as per spherical. Use a resistance band to help your reps if wanted to make that potential, switching to inverted rows as an alternative of pull-ups if crucial.

Say you’ve modified this exercise to a 400-meter run, 21 kettlebell swings with a 26-pound kettlebell, and band-assisted pull-ups with a inexperienced band. The primary time you carried out the exercise, you completed in 10 minutes, which is in direction of the sooner finish of efficiency for this exercise. 

Fairly than preserving your modifications the identical and attempting to go sooner, it might be acceptable to attempt the 35-pound kettlebell whereas preserving each different variable the identical. In case your time didn’t fall off dramatically, it might be acceptable to make the banded pull-ups tougher the third time you repeat this exercise. You possibly can comply with this sample, utilizing one of many strategies of progressive overload every time you repeat the exercise to proceed bettering

When you can already carry out this exercise as prescribed, the way in which to progress will likely be to full the work in much less time and work in direction of executing the exercise with out breaking any of the actions. 


You’ll get used to some intense barbell strikes throughout this WOD.

5 rounds for time of:

Girls: 105-pound barbell

Males: 155-pound barbell

No matter what the prescribed weights are, decide to make use of a weight with which you’ll be able to full an unbroken spherical with out placing the barbell down. Intention for every spherical to take between 1:15 to 2:half-hour, with the total exercise to be accomplished within the six to 12-minute vary.

To progressively overload barbell-based exercises like this, merely discover the load that means that you can keep in alignment with the exercise targets. If the exercise took you over 12 minutes, persist with the identical weight till your time is in direction of the sooner finish of the vary. When you’re in a position to full the work within the acceptable vary, make small will increase to the load on the barbell every time you repeat the exercise.


This WOD combines barbell work with superior calisthenics, so that you’re going to have a blended method to progressive overload right here.

21-15-9 reps for time of

Girls: 155-pound barbell

Males: 225-pound barbell

The intention right here is to not break up your deadlifts greater than twice per spherical. Modify the handstand push-ups with the intention to full the spherical of 21 reps with not more than two breaks. For the reason that rounds are descending in reps, there gained’t be a constant spherical tempo. The complete exercise ought to take between three and 9 minutes.

Say you haven’t any downside with the deadlifts however can’t but carry out handstand push-ups. Maintain the deadlifts as prescribed at 225 kilos and modify the handstand push-ups to pike push-ups as a way to end inside the objective time vary. 

When you’re in a position to accomplish this, it’s possible you’ll progress the problem of the handstand push-ups by performing handstand push-ups together with your toes on a plyo field. As time goes on, you may attempt handstand push-ups with decreased reps till you’ve labored your approach as much as performing the exercise as prescribed.

Further Credit score and Talent Days 

Constantly attending a CrossFit class 4 to 6 instances per week will assist you get stronger and fitter, however there might come a time in your growth the place particular coaching is what that you must hold getting higher. Generally, a diversified program won’t let you work on particular actions constantly sufficient to grasp approach

That is most typical with increased talent actions like weightlifting or gymnastics workouts. Motion mastery requires observe, which is greatest achieved with a number of repetition at a low coronary heart fee. You are able to do this with out including full-out, sweat-inducing coaching periods to your week.

A person wearing a sports bra performs a box jump while their coach cheers them on.
Credit score: Improvisor / Shutterstock


If your schedule permits for it, attempt including 10 minutes of “additional credit score” expertise work after class, two to 3 instances per week. This may let you hold your common coaching schedule and accumulate 20 to half-hour of additional talent growth per week. 

It could even be useful to substitute certainly one of your common coaching days with a talent day. That is the place you’d change an everyday WOD with an hour of drills and progressions focusing on the talent you’re attempting to develop. 

Logging Exercises  

Since exercises and actions are not repeated on a weekly schedule in CrossFit, monitoring outcomes will turn out to be much more essential for future reference.

Protecting a coaching log in CrossFit is essential for a number of causes. It would assist you may have an goal view of your present capacity, which can let you set practical targets for brief and long-term coaching. As time goes on, you’ll have the ability to acknowledge patterns and make changes so that you simply start coaching smarter, not simply tougher. 

A coaching log can even assist you acknowledge that progress — maybe particularly in CrossFit — isn’t linear. You’re going to have ups and downs as you prepare over a protracted time period. Monitoring will let you be much less emotionally hooked up to your day-to-day outcomes and assist you may have perspective for the massive image.

When logging your exercises, it’s essential to monitor as many metrics as potential to supply context for future exercises. A few of these embrace:

  • Motion(s) carried out 
  • Weight(s) lifted 
  • Whole repetitions accomplished 
  • Time to finish exercise 
  • Extra notes on how the weights felt, your temper, restoration, sleep, diet, and many others. 

There’s no scarcity of functions and software program to make monitoring lifts and exercises handy and straightforward. Many CrossFit gyms can have a efficiency monitoring software program as a part of their membership, however merely writing issues down through pen and paper is a superb possibility, as properly. 

No matter the way you select to log your coaching, remember to file day-to-day coaching and reference previous efficiency. This may assist you strategize and implement strategies of progressive overload for upcoming exercises and coaching cycles.

Consistency is Key

Even with a technique, issues won’t all the time go in line with plan. Actual life will get in the way in which of your coaching from time to time. You could have to make use of the rules of progressive overload to modify the day’s coaching based mostly on how issues are feeling on that particular day. 

That’s okay — progress won’t ever be linear. Be affected person and hold coaching onerous, utilizing the strategies of progressive overload to break via plateaus as they arrive. Crucial issue above all is consistency — so study to like the method and hold exhibiting up.

Featured Picture: Combine Tape / Shutterstock


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