Programming seems like a giant puzzle at times and it’s hard to determine where to start, especially with a sport such as CrossFit, where being good at everything is required. Below reveals how to determine your strengths and weaknesses as well as how to program yourself to eliminate your weaknesses while maintaining your strengths.


Part 1- SWOT Yourself




empty swot


A SWOT analysis is a common tool used by business developers to determine 4 things: their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.


The SWOT analysis allows the business owner to see where they are weak and where threats could come up as they progress with their business. This allows them to form plans and prepare for the threats, and possibly eliminate their weaknesses. It also shows what strengths the business has and possible opportunities these strengths could lead to. For instance, if a “strength” a new gym has is an expert, credible leader, it could allow the opportunity for higher rates, and thus higher profit margins.


This same concept can be used for CrossFit (or sport) performance. We could analyze our strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats. It could allow a closer view to what we need to work on, opportunities to further ourselves, and the weakness that are holding us back.


Strength and weaknesses are “internal” meaning they come from you. Whereas opportunities and threats are “external”; they are not directly about you. All of which can be helpful or harmful to your goals. If the CrossFit Games is your goal then strengths would be things like “3x bodyweight deadlift” while a weakness might be “can’t walk on hands”. Below I filled out an example CrossFit SWOT analysis.



Click to enlarge



Self programming is one of the best ways to get results. This is due to creating a progressive model of training suited to your specific weakness and strengths. The problem that sometimes comes with this is the crappy analysis of what actually are your strengths and weaknesses. For instance if I hate running and am about to program for my weaknesses I may just so happen to be “not so bad after all”. Of course, its bullshit but for the sake of not running, I won’t mind bluffing myself.  This is why it is so helpful to have a coach or be able to self program.

Here is a blank CrossFit SWOT analysis you can print and use: Empty CrossFit SWOT analysis – elitefitblog


Here are five steps to figuring out your roadblocks and programming around them:


  1. SWOT yourself
  2. Circle your 2 primary weaknesses.
  3. Create a program that focuses on those weaknesses (take into account opportunities)
  4. Factor in your strengths so you don’t lose them.
  5. Frequently re-test.


Part 2- Programming


As an example, let’s say my two weaknesses are my clean and jerk and snatch. My strengths are body weight movements, specifically such as pushups and pull-ups.


I would then set a timeline for the program, say, 4 weeks and structure a program around the goal in mind, in this case my Olympic lifts. It’s important to note if my end game is to compete in the CrossFit games I can’t neglect any other aspect of my training or those will become a weakness. So I will strategically place those following some programming guidelines:


1. Perform the movements that you most need to work on (or are most technical) first. In this case that would be the Olympic lifts.


2. Sessions per day/week should be based on athlete level. This can vary greatly but below is a basic outline via Mark Rippatoe:


More or less workouts

Via Practical Programming with Mark Rippetoe


3. Reps and sets should be determined based on goals. Fewer reps (Singles to sets of 3) are for maximal power and force, or to up your 1RM, whereas sets of 5-20 reps are for strength endurance. In general, the shorter reps can last for sets of 5, whereas the longer reps will be for 3-4 sets.


Note : It’s  important to note here that Olympic lifts are not best suited for high rep strength sets as it is highly dependent on form, which will break down if using a heavy enough load relative to the sets. Instead, the “slow lifts” such as squats, press and deadlifts along with their variants should be used for high reps.


4. Vary as needed. In order to train throughout the week in a manner that promotes recovery so training can progress requires a degree of variation. This could mean simply using front squats mid-week if using back squats in the beginning and end of the week. For OLY lifts this would mean using the power clean and snatch, snatch and clean pulls and possibly clean deadlifts as variations of the traditional full snatch and clean. Reps/sets can also vary from, say, 5 sets of 1 (90% 1RM) to 5 sets of 2 (80%), and so on. Timed rest can also add variation.


5.  Add assistance exercises. If CrossFit Games is the main focus this would be where the WODs come in. Also adding sets of pull-ups, back extensions and some core work would be useful. This would take place after the strength sets. The metabolic pathways you are trying to work on should maintain focus on these WODs. This could mean that random WODs are not beneficial; rather, planned workouts relating to your desired outcome are best. In our example short power focused workouts would work best, with the occasional long light workout to maintain endurance pathways.



Based on the above, a sample 3-day program could look like the following:



Snatch 5 sets of 2 reps @ 80%*

Snatch pulls 5 sets of 3 @ 110%*

Back Squat 5 sets of 5 @ 80% *

Pullups: max strict x 3

WOD: 4 Rounds 10 thrusters (135) 20 burpees.



Clean and Jerk 5 sets of 1 @ 85%*

Front Squat 3 sets of 3 @ 90% *

WOD: 20 min AMRAP 250m row, 25 pushups.



Clean: 5 sets of 2 @ 80%*

Push Press: 5 sets of 6 reps (work up to a 6RM)

Plank max time x 3

WOD: 3 Rounds of 5 Snatch (155#) 5 Muscle ups 200m Sprint.


* Percents based on 1 rep max.


Based on the fitness level I could add more strength sessions per day and split the load into 2 sessions a day. I could also add-on two more days of training per week. The possibilities are only limited by the trainee or coach.


After 4 weeks I would retest the weaknesses and perform a new SWOT. I can then take a new programming approach, or maintain the same if not enough progress has been made.


A note on opportunities/threats:


Opportunities will usually be ways to capitalize on your weaknesses, although it could also be based on strengths. For instance, if one of my strengths is “competition experience” it could open the opportunity to train with others who compete in the region which would boost my performance efforts. It could also open possibilities to learn from the best at those competitions and ask them for tips or training help.


Threats are likely going to be over-training or injury related. These can all be avoided with smart programming. The above guidelines should be enough to avoid any major threats.


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