The Duo Behind WUWO
Warmup & Workout (WUWO) is owned and operated by Pat and Taz Barber, who have both been involved in CrossFit since the beginning. Pat is an L-4 coach who travels the world to coach athletes and coach coaches; so far, he’s coached about 10,000 people through their L1s. He also co-created, with Taz, the Coaching Development program for Norcal CrossFit in its prime, where he managed and developed well over 60 coaches. Taz opened the first CrossFit affiliate in New Zealand, was a top competitor for years, an L1 staff member and created and ran the same coaching development system for NorCal CrossFit. Her expertise is in writing session plans, which are detailed lesson plans for coaching classes. She has used these plans to create some of the best teams of coaches in the world. Each session plan gives coaches a guide for how to coach the class, how to scale/modify the workout, and gives the “why” or focus of the workout. The plans keep classes consistent, from coach to coach, and give coaches more time to focus on coaching.
Pat and Taz have used session plans to improve the coaching at their facilities, as they see session plans as a tool coaches can use to step outside of the comfort zones and learn new things. They believe that successful gyms are built on the backs of good coaches, who create amazing communities, and their goal is to support that ecosystem by giving coaches tools that will help elevate and support our team.
This document will explain why Pat and Taz program the way they do.
GPP is short for general physical preparedness, and it is used to improve your ability across all areas of fitness — speed, strength, endurance, flexibility, power, coordination, and so on. It is the opposite of SPP, or specific physical preparedness, which is used to increase your capacity in one area of fitness.
The problem with SPP is that you end up “specializing” in whatever you decide to train. And when you specialize in one area, you lose capacity in others. For instance, if you are too good at strength, you will probably have limited cardio ability (and vice versa). A CrossFit competitor whose skilled at powerlifting will focus their training toward running because that’s where they need to improve; an athlete who can bang out 50 pullups no problem will probably focus on getting better with a barbell. This is called targeting. Athletes are specifically targeting certain skills because they’ve identified them as deficiencies that need to be improved if they want to succeed in competitions. It is important to note that targeting is not necessary unless your goal is sport specific.
Biasing is not the same as targeting. Targeting is a way to help individual athletes work on their weaknesses. Biasing neglects, or undervalues, some skills for the sake of one. The biggie is strength. A strength + metcon model is a strength-biased program. It demands that you lift every time you walk into the gym.
For the general public, who is not competing in any sport, GPP is by far the best option because the goal is to be more fit for life, meaning the focus is on decades of fitness and health, not just this year or next year. So the aim of a GPP program is to get people fit without breaking down their bodies or over-stressing a single area. And, of course, to physically prepare everyone for whatever the world throws their way.
More Advanced Resources:
Biasing vs. Targeting in Programming. The CrossFit Journal.
Programming for GPP. The CrossFit Journal.
Why We Don’t Use the Strength + Metcon Formula
If you do a strength + metcon nearly every time you workout, you are following a strength-biased program (not GPP). Strength-biased programs, if not carefully written (and we mean VERY carefully written), absolutely sacrifice capacity in other physical skills, like endurance, stamina and flexibility.
As GPP programmers, it’s our job to look at the overall program and offer people who do it the best chance to improve across the board. Our goal is continual gains for the long haul in ALL areas of fitness: endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.
In short: there needs to a be a calculated balance between the heavy metcon days, the strength-focused sessions and the skill-based workouts. You don’t need to pile all of those needs into one training session, especially not in every training session.
If you want to get fitter, stronger and healthier, you don’t need a strength-biased program. You will get plenty strong with a GPP program. The only two groups of people who need extra lifting volume are: 1) People who love to lift simply because they like lifting, 2)People looking for sport specific training (like CrossFit Competitors). And even then, a strength + metcon formula still isn’t the only way to get that extra strength work.
Most people just need to get to the gym and workout hard, with good coaching. They need mechanics consistency and intensity, not a strength cycle.
A Strength + Metcon Session is Too Full for Proper Strength Work
With this type of workout, you’re faced with a choice: hold back in the strength piece, so you’re not dead on the floor when it’s time for the metcon, or sacrifice your metcon score for a good effort in the strength piece. People usually choose to give their intensity to their strength, so barbell lovers will throw everything they have at the strength piece and give whatever they have leftover to the metcon. Vice versa for the cardio lovers. The result is the same for both groups: no one gives either piece 100% effort.
With our program, strength days are for strength only because we believe that when you do a genuine strength workout, you need to give it the respect that it deserves. On a strength day, you will spend a lot of time under tension, so to decrease the likelihood of injury, we’re going to give you a customized warmup designed specifically for the day. How long does it take to do a legitimate strength day? 30-40 minutes. And that’s not even factoring in the warmup or the brief. The 30-40min estimation is actual work sets only. To properly replenish your energy system (and mind) for a true maximal effort, you need at least 3-5 min of rest between sets. The closer you are to a true max, the longer the rest. So, if you have a 5×5, with 4 rest sets, which is almost 20min of rest, to lift and rest would take 40min. When you factor in time for a warmup, brief and transition time, and a cool down, that’s an hour. Easily.
If you want true strength gains, you need to spend a lot of time under a heavy amount of weight, so when a strength day comes up, you need to focus, you need to take those days very seriously, and you need to hit that workout as hard as you possibly can. That’s how you get big, safe gains in strength without losing capacity in other areas.
One Session Should = One Workout (most of the time)
Because we program for GPP, we have only one true focus most days. To give you a better picture of how this works, here’s the general breakdown of a class:
Every warmup is built specifically for the day’s workout so that your body’s muscles and joints are more prepared for the work. This piece is always coach-led, it changes from day-to-day, and sometimes it includes a game.
In this part of a class, you’ll review each moving piece of the lifts/movements and determine scales or substitutions. Depending on the day, this piece could also include skill or technique work for the associated movements, or loading schemes to prepare for a heavy day.
Coaches will explain the “why” or focus of the workout, and then give you personalized tips and strategies so that you can develop a plan of attack.
Each workout offers 3 levels of difficulty (Competitor, RXD, and Fitness) so that everyone, no matter how long they’ve been doing CrossFit, or how fit they are, can get a quality workout that meets their needs and abilities.
Some days will end with mobilizing or an optional finisher.
It’s true that there are different components to a session, but those pieces are not all workouts in themselves. There is one workout and then all the other pieces are built around it, to support it.
When a session has a singular focus, instead of multiple workouts, there is simply more time, which translates to more coaching and more time for practicing and learning new skills, complex movements or body maintenance.
We believe that one session should = one workout because:
- We believe a biased program is one way to get strong, or better at gymnastics, or to improve your running, but not the only way. A GPP is a better way to get fit, with less risk of specialization and over training. This is one reason why we don’t use a strength + metcon formula every day.
- We believe a strength-biased program, or any other biased program, enhances your abilities in one area but sacrifices your capacities elsewhere.
- We believe that our job is to keep members fit for life, not just today, this month or this year. We are focused on the long run, and this is one reason we focus more on intensity and less on volume.
More Advanced Resources:
Volume, It Comes At A Cost. Chris Spealler’s blog.
An Open Letter to the Big Dogs. The CrossFit Journal.
An Open Letter to the Met-Heads. The CrossFit Journal.
A Deft Dose of Volume. The CrossFit Journal.
Group Programming. The CrossFit Journal.
Biasing vs. Targeting in Programming. The CrossFit Journal.
Constantly Varied Programming. The CrossFit Journal.
Variance and Programming. The CrossFit Journal.
Single Modality, Couplet, Triplet. The CrossFit Journal.
Human Power Output and Metcons. The CrossFit Journal.
Dave Castro on Single Modality Programming Days. The CrossFit Journal.
But, I Like Lifting Every Day
Maybe lifting is pretty much your favorite thing in the gym. It’s fun for you, and you don’t relish the idea of missing out on your daily dose of barbell. We’re not going to lie, the switch to the new program is going to be tough for you the first few weeks, maybe even the first month. Lifting is your strength, and with that removed from the daily schedule, you will be forced to confront your weaknesses (running, etc.) more often. Because you no longer start each and every session with a strength piece, you won’t get that great confidence boost before beginning an intense metcon, and that might sour your mood. Please hear us out before you panic.
First, facing your weaknesses head-on is an absolute necessity if you want to see huge gains across the board. It won’t be a super fun process to face those weaknesses, but the leaps in ability you will experience, and the feeling of hitting a goal you thought was impossible feels AWESOME. It’s totally normal to resist working on our weaknesses. Many of us come to CrossFit because we cannot be trusted to work on these weaknesses ourselves. When solo, we go to the gym and work on what we’re already good at. This is why group classes and the accountability of a class are so helpful to most people. By removing the daily strength piece, we’re making you do stuff you don’t like to do as often more often. And so we get why that might bum you out. But we’re asking that you trust the process. Also, if you haven’t read it yet, please read An Open Letter to the Big Dogs on The CrossFit Journal.
If just want to lift for the fun of it, not because you feel it’s essential for getting strong, we’re suggesting coaches/gyms offer you a little extra barbell work to do before/after regular classes. Because we totally get that maybe you’re not craving extra lifting because you feel it’s necessary for getting strong, you just have fun lifting and you want to do it several times a week. That’s fair. Talk with your gym about how they can meet this need.
Cool, I’ll Just Skip the Strength Day
The barbell lovers will try to skip running days because they’ll say, “Oh, I can do that at home.” They won’t of course. But you, you’ll skip deadlift day. Because you don’t feel like you’ve worked out unless you’re dead on the floor, lying in a puddle of your own sweat, breathing as though you’ve just barely escaped a grizzly.
You probably don’t truly understand how to lift yet :-), which is the real reason you don’t show up to lift. After a maximum effort on the barbell, people who know how to lift are absolutely spent. They have nothing left to give. They immediately go home and take a nap. You likely won’t experience that because you don’t put in maximal effort on strength days. The same way a lifter might jog when they’re supposed to sprint, you avoid safe, heavy loads that would really challenge your central nervous system and cause some real athletic adaptation. But you have to get over this hump and face your weakness if you want to be truly fit.
So when a strength day comes up, you need to focus, you need to take those days very seriously, and you need to hit that workout as hard as you possibly can. That’s how you get big, safe gains in strength without losing capacity in other areas.
Also, if you haven’t read it yet, please read An Open Letter to the Met-Heads on The CrossFit Journal.
But, the Strength + Metcon is Classic CrossFit
CrossFit.com has always posted one workout a day, and they very rarely post a strength + metcon. With the rise of the Games and the popularity of certain competitors, the two-in-one workout became more popular as everyday people wanted a taste of training like an elite athlete, without working out 3 hours a day. So the strength + metcon model developed alongside CrossFit but it is not the definition of CrossFit.
Also, one thing to remember is that Games athletes added volume to their training so they could handle the volume of competition, meaning they only needed more volume because the Games demanded it, not because it made them more fit.
The reason why so many competitors, who own successful gyms of their own, speak out against this model is that many people make the mistake of elevating volume over intensity when it should be the other way around.
We have A LOT to say on this topic (volume vs. intensity) but we don’t want to give you pages and pages of information when these articles explain it so well:
Volume, It Comes At A Cost. Chris Spealler’s blog.
A Deft Dose of Volume. The CrossFit Journal.
No Intensity, No Reward. The CrossFit Journal.
Also, this video shows several top-level athletes discussing GPP programming at their facilities and how they talk about programming with their members who want competitor-style programming.
But, the Strength + Metcon is More Bang for My Buck
In our opinion, the strength + metcon formula doesn’t actually deliver more value, but it can feel as though it does. Psychologically, that’s powerful. In reality, it’s more like choosing quantity over quality. Yes, there’s a strength piece and a metcon piece, so you might feel like you’re getting two-for-one, but are you giving both 100% effort?
When people first encounter a GPP program after they’ve followed a strength + metcon model, they’re faced with a problem: they’re usual workout style isn’t going to work anymore. When you have a strength piece before a metcon, you have to choose where to put most of your intensity, and you almost always choose your strong point. Barbell lovers will go harder on lifts, treating the metcon like a buy-out or obligation. Cardio lovers will hold out on the lifting, never giving it their full effort, so they can do better in the metcon. When you switch to a GPP program, there’s only one workout, one focus. But people are still in the habit of giving their best effort to what they love more.
This is totally normal because we humans don’t like to work on our weaknesses. You can see this manifest in CrossFit workouts in this way: When do you rest? Do you give everything to your lifts and then pull back in the run, treating it as your time to recover? Do you run hard and then lift slow, taking long breaks between reps to catch your breath before the next hard run? When you rest says it all.
The real problem here is intensity. Barbell fans will jog instead of sprint. Cardio peeps will lift a moderate load instead of a heavy load. Both groups leave different workouts feeling they have something left in the tank.
“Be impressed by intensity, not by volume.”
- Gregg Glassman, founder of CrossFit
So what is intensity? Scientifically speaking, intensity is defined as power: force multiplied by distance, then divided by time. In other words: Intensity is doing work fast.
Intensity is also relative to someone’s physical and psychological tolerances. Athletes should be looking to get to the limits of their ability and push that boundary. It’s about pushing for 11 deadlifts when you had planned on doing 10, or driving a bit harder in the 200 when you typically use it to rest. Coaches should help athletes find these areas to push in and then hold their hand through it daily.
So if you ever leave a workout feeling like it “wasn’t enough,” it’s generally because you did not perform the workout with proper intensity. Having more in the tank is not evidence that a strength + metcon model was more effective or a better workout. It is evidence that you did not experience the benefits of putting a true effort into the workout. It falls to the coach to help you with this.
Non-Linear Programming vs. Linear Programming
Many gyms run periodized strength programs or cycles. “We’re going to do an 8-week squat cycle, and when it’s all over we’re going to retest your 1RM.” This is linear programming.
WUWO is a non-linear program, meaning there are no cycles or periodized pieces. There will be monthly focuses and a slight “lean” here and there but never true periodization. And here’s why: Many linear programs lift on specific days. For instance, a gym will program squats on Tues/Thurs. But what if you can only come in on Mon, Wed, Fri? You’ll miss the cycle entirely or have to rework your regular workouts to get the squats in.
A linear program is built with the understanding of exactly when the athletes are training and what total volume they will hit. In a gym some people have a specific set of days they can attend (because of work, kids, etc.) and others come in randomly. With so much variation, the possibilities are infinite. So our program’s aim is to cover all the lifts throughout the month, on different days of the week, so that no matter which days of the week you attend, you get a great stimulus. We also focus on skills that transfer to lifting, so even when we’re not lifting, we’re building strength, mobility, and flexibility in ways that help you see gains in strength. The real way to benefit from our program is to take every day seriously and hit it with everything you’ve got!
Frequently Asked Questions
If GPP is so great, why weren’t we doing this from the beginning?
CrossFit is still young. We’re pioneers and experimenters. We try x, then y. There is no one right way to do CrossFit. A strength-biased program can work. So can a GPP program, with less risk of specialization.
Will there be any fitness testing or benchmarks?
Every 4-6 months we program a Fitness Testing month with custom benchmarks so that you can measure your progress, or lack thereof. Which is why it’s so important for you to log these workouts. Otherwise, you won’t have anything to compare your current numbers to.
We also program standard CrossFit benchmarks (Fran, Helen, etc.) throughout the months so you have some data to refer to over the course of a year.
Does the program have a monthly focus or theme?
Yes! We give each month a theme (Shoulders TLC, Open Prep, Fitness Testing Benchmarks, EMOM Mondays, Team Workouts, etc.) to keep things fun and make the programming slightly more focused.
I’m a competitor. Will this prepare me for Regionals, etc.?
The Competitor scale (the highest of the 3 scales we offer with each session plan) is a great base for competitors. But you will need to spend extra time on personal weaknesses and add a touch more volume to the overall program if you’re serious about competing.
We also offer a Competitor Program which is designed to be used in combination with this program for athletes who are performing 90% of their workouts at the Rxd or Competitor levels. Here’s how it works: You attend the day’s regular class and also perform the workout from the competitor program. Sometimes you will perform the competitor workout before regular class and sometimes you will perform it afterwards (and sometimes you will have stuff to do before and after the workout). Talk with your gym/coaches about this program if you’re at that level.
Here’s a great video on biased vs. target programming. If you want to be a competitor, give it a watch.
Is there a recommended on/off cycle per week?
Our dose recommendation is usually 3-5 sessions per week for the new client, and 4-6 for the intermediate or advanced. Remember, rest/recovery days are crucial.